So this is not my average frivolous rant, or product review. This is important.
My brother in law, who I will call ‘Alan’ to respect his family’s privacy, has suffered four years’ of cancer. It began in his tonsil and eventually spread to his lungs and chest.
His struggle ended on 30 April, in a hospice, with my sister by his side.
Three weeks before he died, my sister called an LBC Radio phone-in, and Alan spoke on live radio from his bed, about the shocking changes to widows’ benefits which were about to take effect.
Alan was financially savvy. After he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he calculated the amount of National Insurance he had paid, which would, had he lived to a ripe old age, be returned to him in a pension.
He knew that, should he die prematurely, his widow would be entitled to an allowance from the Government until their children reached the age of 20. Therefore returning, in part, the taxes that Alan worked for 30 years to pay.
His money, which he earned, had handed over to the Government and expected his family to benefit from.
That is, until the law changed on 6 April.
The change means that my sister (who works, by the way) will only receive a small benefit for 18 months. Alan’s family is £50,000 worse off, because he died a few days too late (or 30 years too soon).
Alan spent his last few weeks trying to overturn this devastating change.
The phone-in led to a front page article in The Guardian, which in turn led to Alan appearing, from his bed, on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.
Here is a clip:
‘Alan’ has incurable cancer.
He says his family would have got £60,000 in widows benefits, but under new rules they’ll get just £6000. pic.twitter.com/tqu60iAxd5
— Victoria Derbyshire (@VictoriaLIVE) 4 April 2017
Letters were sent to his local MP, Matthew Offord. They went unanswered – even those that he followed up with. He did not even receive the courtesy of an acknowledgement. He also wrote to Damian Green at the DWP, with no response.
The Victoria Derbyshire programme ran another piece the day after Alan’s funeral. And The Guardian also ran a follow up article.
We’re so grateful to Lord Pollock and Baroness Altmann who both not only appeared on the programme, but were also at my sister’s house for prayers this week. I believe that they are going to continue to put pressure on Government to overturn this law. Their support has been above and beyond the call of duty.
It’s telling that the Victoria Derbyshire programme was unable to find one sitting Conservative MP willing to endorse the new benefits policy.
I understand how stretched the public sector is, and how funds are short in all areas of policy. Cuts to education and policing, social services and the NHS affect many of us.
I truly hope this policy doesn’t affect anyone else I know, but it has the potential to impact anyone with young children. Did you even know about it? I didn’t.
Now that he’s gone, it’s up to his friends and family to continue the campaign and get this law overturned.
That will be Alan’s legacy.
If you want to support the campaign, please write to your local MP and share this blog as widely as you can. If you’re not sure what to write to your MP, please print this page and enclose it with your personal details, or copy the link and email it.
Thank you for your support. Normal service will be resumed shortly.
Much love, Vx