7-year-old boy with leukaemia has his benefits axed

Why did the government cut his benefits, and what is wrong with the system?

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warmth female hands cupped

Seven-year-old Tommi Miller from Cambridge is battling leukaemia for the second time. The first time round, his parents received £700 a month in benefits to help look after him. However, when Tommi was given the all-clear in April, the benefits stopped. Sadly the illness returned in September, and Tommi's parents stopped work to look after him, but the government still hasn't re-started the benefits, and the family is forced to rely on food banks.

The Daily Mirror reported that his parents Ruth (39) and Kevin (42) have had no income for six months apart from child benefit and £50-a-week child tax credit. They have struggled with bills, and needed financial support from friends and family, as well as the food bank charity. One of Tommi's consultants also gave them supermarket vouchers to see them through the worst of it.

The paper reported that the family had their first claim for benefits refused, nine months after submitting it, because Tommi was in remission at the time it was sent. The DWP claims never to have received the claim made in September, but said it would make a decision next month. It insisted that it had followed the correct procedures.

Benefits stopped

Over recent months there have been heart-breaking stories of people who have had their benefits stopped, with devastating results. The Citizens Advice Bureau is so concerned about the impact that it has recently published Punishing Poverty, a report into the effect of people having benefits stopped as a result of sanctions.

They found that a third of those who were subject to sanctions were unfit for work, almost a quarter didn't know why they had been sanctioned, and 40% hadn't received a letter explaining it. On average they had their benefits stopped for eight weeks - although some people had them stopped for ten. Two thirds of them were left with no income, and those with children reported that they only had child benefit and child tax credits.

To get by, 71% of them cut down on food, 49% on heating and 47% on travel. Almost a quarter had used food banks, and some had been left to look for food in skips or bins - or go out and beg for money.

It concluded that there was a culture of box-ticking and following procedures, and not enough care was taken to consider the situation of the individual, communicate effectively, or treat them fairly.

Children like Tommi are paying the price of policies being implemented without humanity. The question is how many sick children and adults will have to rely on food banks, and how many vulnerable people will slip through the net before something is done.

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