The widow of a seriously ill man who died facing a “cruel” benefits battle has vowed to fight for justice in his memory.
Lyn Coupe this week told the Derbyshire Times how her late husband, David, was considered fit to work and denied incapacity benefit – even though he was dying.
Mr Coupe, who lost his battle to an aggressive form of cancer which left him blind and deaf, appealed against the ruling last year – but he will be laid to rest today having received no answers.
Tearful Mrs Coupe, 57, of Allpits Road, Calow, said: “If I’ve got the strength, I’m going to fight to overturn this cruel decision.
“Before he died, David kept saying, ‘I hope I can live long enough to win this case’. Sadly, he didn’t.
“I don’t want to let David down – I want to fight for justice in his memory.”
The decision was made by Atos, a private company which carries out work-capability tests on behalf of the Government.
Raising Mr Coupe’s story in the House of Commons, an emotional Dennis Skinner, Labour MP for Bolsover, branded Atos a “cruel, heartless monster” and said it was “not fit for purpose”.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he would personally look into the “desperately sad” case.
Mr Coupe, a former butcher and farmer, was assessed as fit to work last year – despite enduring unbearable pain from ulcerated legs which left him virtually housebound. He also suffered with diabetes and a heart condition.
His £50-a-week incapacity benefit was subsequently axed – forcing the cash-strapped Coupes to go without heating and food.
They appealed against the judgment but were told a ruling would take almost a year because of a backlog of cases.
But Mr Coupe didn’t have a year. He was later diagnosed with a rare form of cancer which took his sight and his hearing – and two weeks ago his life.
Five weeks before he died, Mrs Coupe contacted Atos to tell them her husband, 57, didn’t have long to live – but still the appeal was not brought forward.
Mrs Coupe said: “I’m so bitter and angry about it all.
“David didn’t need this on top of everything else he was going through.”
Mrs Coupe described her husband as a “much-loved man who would do anything for anyone”.
Figures show more than 150,000 people have raised concerns about assessments carried out by French firm Atos.
Colin Hampton, co-ordinator at the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centre, said: “There should be a complete overhaul of the system.”
A spokesman for Atos called it a “terribly sad” case.
They said that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) makes benefit decisions and manages the appeals process.
A DWP spokesman said: “Our sympathy goes out to the family of Mr Coupe during what is obviously a very difficult time.
“A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence we are given.”
• A keen biker before he fell ill, Mr Coupe will be taken to Brimington crematorium in a custom-built tricycle hearse.
Bolsover funeral director Rosemary Eyre organised the final mark of respect.
Mr Coupe’s brother, Andy, 53, said: “It will be a fitting tribute. David saw the hearse before he died and he loved it.”