Dying, housebound and denied benefits: Hackney woman, 54, has ‘no one to turn to’
- Credit: Archant
A housebound woman with just months to live has had her benefits taken away – because she “can’t afford” to apply for UK citizenship.
Dalston woman Donna Pitino, 54, has lived in Britain for 27 years and claimed benefits for 12.
The former waitress, whose parents were American and Italian, had planned to marry her English boyfriend in 2009 and would have been granted permanent leave to remain – but he died unexpectedly of pneumonia just months before the wedding.
A routine DWP assessment appointment in March flagged up that American national Ms Pitino did not have leave to remain in the UK.
Weeks later, she was given eight months to live.
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But Ms Pitino, who lives in Stoke Newington Road, told the Gazette she has “nowhere in the world she can go” and “no one to turn to” after her 84-year-old father died three months ago.
“I go to bed terrified every night,” she said.
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“It was my birthday the day after I found out I lost my income support. That’s probably my last birthday.
“If my carer comes to prepare food but there’s no food in the house what is she supposed to feed me? Some of the plants?
“I’m having to go around begging change for loo roll and I can’t do that any longer.”
Ms Pitino was diagnosed with emphysema in March 2009, two months before her fiancé died.
She claims she was invited to claim benefits at the time by support workers, despite flagging up that she was not a UK national.
“Now they say your passport has expired, but I tried to point that out to them then,” she said.
“They said: ‘Leave it with us.’
“I’ve had numerous appointments since then.
“If they accepted me then they should accept me now.”
She said she began to apply for UK citizenship but discovered it would cost her thousands of pounds she didn’t have.
A government spokesman said: “We are committed to supporting people who are ill or disabled.
“However, claimants who aren’t UK nationals need to have the right immigration status in order to be entitled to benefits.”