Warrington couple who can't make ends meet after cancer diagnosis call for pension dignity

Video report by ITV Granada journalist Jennifer Buck

A grandmother with cancer who has had to borrow from her children to make ends meet is calling for a change in pension rules - pleading to "give us back some dignity".

Cheryl Whittaker and her husband Mark have been struggling financially after she was told she was terminally ill.

Cheryl said: "When I was diagnosed the oncologist said, 'Look Cheryl there is nothing we can do, we can't operate on you, there is nothing we can do for the type of cancer you've got, so just go out and make memories with your husband'.

"But you can't."

The couple, from Warrington, say because they cannot claim their state pension they have been forced to downsize their home and cut back on basic essentials to pay the bills.

"The electric and gas is astronomical, we have not had the heating on," Mark said.

"I put the heating on this morning just to make it comfortable for [ITV News] arriving, that's the first time I've had it on in two or three months."

Cheryl Whittaker was told to go out and make memories but says she can't. Credit: ITV Granada

The couple are supporting Marie Curie's 'Nobody should die in poverty' campaign - and have delivered a petition to Downing Street with football pundit Chris Kamara.

The campaign calls on the government to give people dying of a terminal illness early access to their pension.

The pair have been married more than 40 years and enjoyed prosperous careers but after downsizing their home they still cannot make ends meet.

Mark said: "We can't control the cancer but we should be able to control our financial situation especially after what we've paid in.

"It's just an absolute disgrace."

The couple have a fridge stocked full of essential cancer medication to keep Cheryl alive, but they struggle to keep it filled with food.

Mark is now Cheryl's full-time carer. Credit: ITV Granada

Mark no longer works and spends all of his time caring for Cheryl - a life-changing situation he said they have paid the price for.

"We very much hope that in the budget next month the Chancellor will make that commitment to extend that provision.

"If it doesn't happen then Marie Curie will keep fighting for it because it is something that really really matters.

"It would lift thousands of people living with terminal illness out of poverty."

Cheryl and Mark want the changes to benefit other families like them.

Cheryl said: "Sometimes I'm thinking I won't be here when it gets changed so hopefully it will be changed for other people.

"I'm just glad I wake up on a morning to be honest. I'm just glad I woke up to this one. Each morning is a bonus."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "A terminal diagnosis is an unimaginable challenge, and our priority is providing people with financial support quickly and compassionately.

"Those nearing the end of their lives can get fast-track access to a range of benefits without needing a face-to-face assessment or waiting period, with the majority receiving the highest rate of those benefits.

"In 2022 we extended that support so thousands more people nearing end of life would be able to access these benefits earlier through special benefit rules."