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Man 'surviving off can of tuna a day' as he cares for both parents

PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 January 2019

John McDermott with his parents Patrick and Catherine, both aged 77,  who  need full time care. Picture: Polly Hancock

John McDermott with his parents Patrick and Catherine, both aged 77, who need full time care. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

A son caring for both his parents is "surviving off a can of tuna a day" and has ended up in rental arrears because his slashed benefits can't cover his living costs.

John McDermott shaves his father Patrick, 77,  who needs full time care. Picture: Polly HancockJohn McDermott shaves his father Patrick, 77, who needs full time care. Picture: Polly Hancock

John McDermott, 47, of Pilgrims Way, has been the sole carer for his father, Patrick, who suffers from severe incontinence and dementia, and his schizophrenic mother, Katherine, both 77, for four years.

He spends 18 hours a day caring for both of them at his mother’s flat, at Margaret Macmillan House, in Hazellville Road, but says he went six months without getting Carers Allowance from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and had been living off just £93 a week paid via a direct care arrangement involving his sister, Mary, and Islington Council.

“It’s been like hell for four years,” he said. “I’m 47 years old but I feel 101. I’ve gone grey and have an ulcer in my stomach.

“The last four years fighting for what is just has left me a nervous wreck – I’ve been screaming out for help.

John McDermott with his mother Catherine who needs full time care. Picture: Polly HancockJohn McDermott with his mother Catherine who needs full time care. Picture: Polly Hancock

“I’m surviving on a can of sweetcorn and tuna a day and have been for the past few years now.”

John received a back payment of £1,300 from the DWP in late December, paying back about six months’ worth of £62 weekly payments, which have now resumed.

A DWP spokesperson said it was “important people tell us about their circumstances [...] to ensure they get the right level of support”.

His father spent a year in Highbury New Park Care Home but was discharged in 2014 because he felt Patrick’s care needs weren’t being met there.

John McDermott is caring for his parents 18 hours a day. Picture: Polly HancockJohn McDermott is caring for his parents 18 hours a day. Picture: Polly Hancock

Patrick is now back living with Katherine with John as their sole carer.

“Mum is a schizophrenic,” John added. “And she has been absolutely failed as well.

“She just rocks back and forth every day and thinks shadow people are trying to kill her.

“It’s a great stress on me and all they do is come and give her an injection once every month.”

In October Islington Council sent John a letter saying his housing benefit would be “recalculated” due to a “change in circumstances”, adding that he owes them £2,578.

He believes this is because he’s seen as employed, owing to the £93 a week he gets to care for his parents.

An Islington Council spokesperson said: “We’re concerned about the issues raised by Mr McDermott and will meet him to discuss these further.

“A care package is in place and is kept under review.

“We’re working with Mr McDermott to help sort out his benefits and his rent arrears.

“We have not begun any legal action relating to his rent arrears, and he is not at risk of eviction.

“We will do everything we can to help people with housing benefit and will avoid evictions for arrears wherever possible.

“If people are struggling with benefit issues or arrears we recommend they contact us as soon as possible so we can help.”

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