A YOUNG cancer patient aged just 26 who has been given only months to live is fighting for a change in the benefits system - determined to leave a legacy which will help others.
Gerard Poole has a life expectancy of between six and nine months, up to 12 if he responds well to chemotherapy, after being diagnosed with stomach cancer which has also spread to his liver and oesophagus.
He can no longer work as an assistant in Sheffield Central Reference Library, so he applied for Disability Living Allowance from the Department for Work and Pensions.
He completed the form within two weeks of diagnosis, but has been told the money will be backdated only to the time of his application - rather than the day he was forced to stop work when diagnosed.
Gerard, of Walkley, Sheffield, is now fighting for the rule to be changed, so people receive funds from the moment they need them.
The former Sheffield Hallam University student, who also completed a Masters in history at The University of Sheffield, said: “It seems these rules are really unreasonable and not at all compassionate.
“For me personally the financial implications are not too severe - I don’t have a mortgage to pay or children.
“But I am a rarity - someone diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer is likely to be in his 40s at least and traditionally by that time these are exactly the kind of things people do need money for.
“I completed my forms with a relatively quick turnaround - but that isn’t possible for everyone.
“When you are given a diagnosis like this, it’s a huge shock and things like money are often the furthest thing from your mind.”
“It’s not about me and my situation any more. I just thought what a wonderful legacy it would be to leave behind a system that was a little bit better for someone else in this situation.”
Gerard is responding well to treatment at Weston Park Hospital and spending precious time with loved ones.
“I have had members of my family diagnosed with cancer and to be honest that has hit me harder. I think it is always going to be tougher for the people around you.
“I feel content with the way my life has gone - I feel I’ve prioritised the right things.
“But I also want to make sure I enjoy my final days and that means making sure the bills can be paid.
“That’s what I want for everyone else too.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “It is very difficult to gather evidence in respect of a period earlier than the date of claim - that is why new claims cannot be backdated.
“But anyone unhappy with a decision has the right to have the matter considered by an independent tribunal.”
Rules already apply for people with a life expectancy of six months or less, who do not have to satisfy normal entitlement conditions.