A woman who is trying to raise cash for life-saving cancer treatment says social service officials were planning to cut back on the help and support she receives.
Esma Richardson has been battling stage four lung cancer since January 2014 and, until recently, Esma has been receiving help with housework, ironing, nursery fees and free exercise sessions from South Tyneside Council.
Just because I might look well on the outside doesn’t mean I’m not seriously ill.Esma Richardson
But last week - following an assessment from a social worker - the 39-year-old former hairdresser says she has been told she would no longer be entitled to this help.
A council spokesman said it could not comment on individual circumstances but officials would continue to work with the mum-of-three to “ensure she receives appropriate support to meet her social care needs.”
Mrs Richardson is currently part of a drugs trial which is helping to extend her life but a growth next to her kidney has left her needing to raise £50,000 for potentially lifesaving treatment called Stereotactic radiotherapy which is not available on the NHS.
She says the support she and her family have been getting is vital to her battle against the disease.
She said: “When I got the phone call from the social worker telling me the benefits were going to be cut I was distraught.
“She came out and I told her everything about the cancer and the fundraising, then this happens.
“My husband and I have worked hard all of our lives and paid our taxes. Now we are losing the fundamental benefits that have made my life easier and given me the time I need to spend with my sons.”
Mrs Richardson lodged a formal complaint with the council and has since been told the benefits will now not be stopped.
She added: “I’m doing enough, trying to fight the cancer. I shouldn’t have to waste energy fighting for benefits I’m entitled to.
“Just because I might look well on the outside doesn’t mean I’m not seriously ill. I have cancer, and I spend most of my time going back and forth to hospital for treatments, scans and intravenous treatments.
“These few benefits mean the world to me and my family. The nursery fees enable my two boys to go to nursery while I’m at hospital and it helps them to lead as normal a life as possible while having the opportunity to go to the gym has enabled me to stay strong and has helped to combat my depression.
“I am just appalled the council could even consider doing this to me.”
Mrs Richardson is currently trying to raise the £50,000 to fund the Stereotactic radiotherapy.
A spokesman for the council said: “The council cannot comment in detail on individual circumstances however we have been in touch with Mrs Richardson to apologise for any distress caused at the recent visit and to reassure her we will continue to work with her and her family to ensure she receives appropriate support to meet her social care needs.”