1. ITV Report

Cancer patient faces eviction from home due to benefit cuts

A Swindon woman says she fears she'll lose her home after she was diagnosed with cancer. Cheryl Hughes has had to give up work to have operations and radiotherapy, but she's been denied extra housing benefit to cover her rent.

Swindon Borough Council says its hands are tied by central government rules.

Credit: ITV News

When Cheryl Hughes went to hospital with sight problems, she was given the diagnosis so many of us dread: cancer. Cheryl's was in her right eye.

Credit: ITV News

Cheryl had immediate surgery and radiotherapy but it couldn't save the sight in her right eye. She can't drive anymore, or gauge distance. That, and the radiotherapy side effects, meant giving up her job in a pub until she learns to adapt.

But it leaves the problem of paying rent on the council house she's lived in with her family for 20 years. Cheryl thought she could get housing benefit while she's out of work. But Swindon Borough Council turned her down, and she now has the added stress of wondering how she's going to manage.

All it takes is a diagnosis of cancer to push you to the brink of homelessness in a very short period of time.

– cheryl hughes
Credit: ITV News

In response Swindon Borough Council says that Cheryl already owes them rent, but that they will 'work out a plan with her so she can manage her payments in her current circumstances'.

We have been in constant contact with Miss Hughes because we know she is going through a bad time with her health and fully understand the stress this will be causing her. We have no intention of evicting her, and will work out a plan with her so she can manage her payments in her current circumstances.

Miss Hughes’s Housing Benefit claim failed because her household income is too high to trigger Housing Benefit payments. Like all councils, we have no discretion when it comes to Housing Benefit claims, which must meet the criteria set nationally by the government.

– Swindon Borough Council
Housing benefit criteria. Credit: ITV News

Housing benefit takes into account your total income from other benefits and savings, whether you have spare bedrooms, and who else lives with you. Cheryl thinks the system needs to be more generous and more flexible.

The council has appointed a housing officer to work with Cheryl, and says it isn't trying to evict her. But with another operation on her eye looming, she faces a worrying future.