Terminally ill woman lost her ESA, home and all her belongings after being told she was fit for work

May 17, 2017

By Kitty S Jones

Claire Hardwicke

Claire Hardwicke has stage four thyroid cancer. This means that it has spread to other parts of her body, and sadly, Claire was told that her cancer is terminal. She also has chronic osteoarthritis. Despite taking 80mg of morphine a day to cope, she still experiences considerable pain.

Additionally, Claire already had a life-threatening, acute allergy to latex. This means that she has to carry an EpiPen at all times, which is an epinephrine (adrenaline) injection to treat life-threatening anaphylaxis. Developing a severe allergy to latex unfortunately meant that Claire could no longer continue working as a mental health nurse.

Claire first became ill 9 years ago with uterine/ovarian cancer, but it was the allergy that made her unemployable and ended her career as a mental-health nurse, her partner, Alan King, told me

Claire’s first bout of cancer was treated and she made a recovery, which lasted only 7 years. Sadly, the diagnosis of her more recent thyroid cancer and metastases wasn’t diagnosed until it was incurable. The tumours had spread throughout her thyroid gland, neck, lymph system and adrenal glands.

All Claire can hope for now is palliative care, which is alleviatory only, as a cure isn’t possible.

Unbelievably, Claire was assessed as “fit for work” by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) last year. Her Employment and Support Allowance was stopped. All of her financial support ended. This was despite being told by the Capita assessor (for Personal Independence Payments) that the report to the DWP would state that Claire was in need of more support, not less.

Overnight the couple lost every bit of financial support they had previously been entitled to, so Alan decided to use what little financial resources he had left to help Claire to fulfill some of  her”Bucket List.”

The couple were forced to say goodbye to their rented bungalow and 99% of their possessions because their housing benefit was stopped. They had no income, as Claire’s Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) was stopped, and the Carer’s Allowance also ended.

Claire explained to me that when she lost her lifeline support, the wait for appeal hearings was over 18 months. The couple couldn’t afford to wait that long, as they had no income. They also didn’t know if Claire would survive the wait.

Claire and Alan went to visit family members around the UK before setting off, in October 2016, on a Mediterranean cruise for a month, which Alan paid for, using his credit cards. They already owed a lot of money on their credit cards, but with no income at all, the couple were facing destitution.  The incredible distress the couple suffered took its toll on Claire’s already poor health, too.

On the return journey, both of them realised that coming all the way back to the UK – where they were homeless, with no income, and they no longer even qualified for free prescriptions – would be pointless. So the couple left the cruise when they got to Portugal, where it’s significantly warmer than the UK (and therefore less painful for Claire) – and they’ve been there ever since, living in a very basic, rented room.

Alan told me: “Claire’s cancer hasn’t claimed her life as quickly as we both had imagined, (which is good), but with medications, food and board, we’re now out of funds and out of options unless we can somehow fundraise for some subsistence.”

The couple have paid money in advance for their single room in Portugal, which covers rent until 14th March, after which time they will have absolutely nowhere to go.

Claire says: “There are new trial therapies for extreme cases of thyroid cancer like mine.

 I wish I had a pot of gold to pay for the experimental cancer therapy.
I don’t want to die, but choices and chances aren’t given to the poor people. We need a miracle, a winning lotto ticket. There should be equal opportunities for all patients.”

The treatment would possibly extend Claire’s life and improve the quality of the time she has left. She says: “I could have a chance of a longer, fuller life…. but I don’t have that option open to me….”

Tiffany Williams, a friend of Claire’s in the UK, has set up a crowdfunding page on JustGiving to raise £800 to help pay for her treatment. So far, 53% of the sum has been raised.

It’s such a modest amount for a treatment that will make a huge difference to Claire and Alan, who have lost their home and everything else they had in the UK. Now they are at risk of losing their room in Portugal, too.

You can make a donation at:  https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/tiffany-williams


Claire informs me that the gofundme collection has now closed. But for those wishing to help in some way, there is a beautiful painting of Claire by Jason Pearce, which is up for auction with funds going to her medical fees.  

She says many thanks. 

Jason Pearce is an administrator for a very popular political group, and like me, he was originally contacted and asked if a member (Alan) could post a gofundme page to raise money for treatment costs to the group, as his wife, Claire, is seriously ill. Jason agreed, and offered to help. As Jason is an artist, it was suggested that he could paint a portrait of Claire and it could then be auctioned online to help raise some more money towards Claire’s ongoing treatment.

This is Jason’s lovely painting of Claire.



20″ x 16″ Mixed media on canvas.

You can follow Kitty S Jones at her webpage Politics and Insights



  1. Peter

    That’s the conservatives for you

  2. Ruth

    A lot of their experience seems to have been exererbated by lack of advice or information. If they showed the council they had low or no income housing benefit would be reinstated. DLA/PIP have special rules for terminal diagnosises so the wait time should be much less than the standard. Job seekers could have been claimed whilst handing in fit notes showing she couldn’t work (not ideal, but a way to get income whilst appealing.) They can also claim some disability benefits whilst within the EU. They should also have been advised to appeal as the decisions would have most likely been overturned in tribunal. Additionally they could have contacted local council for a carers assessment.

    I totally understand this is difficult and overwhelming without advice and support and going on a cruise was probably a much nicer way to spend some of her remaining time than dealing with an upsetting, confusing and dehumanising system, but I would strongly advise this couple and others in similar situation to contact Macmillian to find out their options, they give financial and benefits advice for those suffering from cancer and can also give out emergency grants and debt advice.

    Depending on national insurance contributions, how long they have been in Portugal etc and other factors this couple may still be eligible for some disability benefits, so I would encourage them to apply again if this is the case. https://www.gov.uk/claim-benefits-abroad/illness-injury-and-disability-benefits

    • S Cooper

      She was found fit for work at assessments so can’t claim and you can’t claim JSA unless you are seeking full time employment.
      Join any of the group’s on Facebook for PIP , DLA or ESA and you will see that it’s common place for assessors to not tell the truth at the assessments and I’ve witnessed this myself

    • Linda Lemon

      That, I’m afraid seems to apply for a few. I believe if you are found fit for work at assessments you can not claim and certainly not Jobseekers unless you are seeking full time employment.
      Assessors don’t always tell the truth. Something to do with ‘incentives’, I believe…

      • michelle poole

        There are no incentives and the assessor will gain nothing by not being 100% honest

  3. Jorge

    I just do not understand how people like this “allow” this to happen. We have been through the same process but we wrote to the local MP and also demanded a review from Capita and the DWP. All these were granted and we never lost any benefits. If you just keep quiet and take it, you can’t really blame the government,

  4. Anne

    I have a list of ailments and am in pain 24/7 & struggle with fatigue because of them. I receive standard PIP for mobility & care. I had an assessment for ESA to try get into the support group as I am unable to work. The HCP was lovely & had a daughter with similar heath problems so she understood the difficulties. When my decision arrived in the post, I thought they had sent me someone else’s letter, it was a pack of lies!! I asked for a review & stayed with their decision that I was fit for work. I appealed and am on my 3rd date for an appeal as first 3 were cancelled at short notice. Due at appeal unless cancelled again at the end of July a year after inotisl claim! Welfare Rights are supporting me. I hope this lady in the story gets the financial help she deserves and hope the new medical treatment helps her.


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