‘Sometimes I sit and cry for days’ – Janice’s story

Janice O'Keefe

Grandmother Janice O’Keefe sometimes sits crying for days in her house.

The former factory manager is terrified about the future as she has started to rely increasingly on foodbanks. She has diabetes, so has to inject herself regularly every day, and also takes up to 30 tablets a day for other ailments. She walks with a stick because of arthritis and is going blind in her right eye. And yet still, she is told she must be available for work.

When Janice, who has two grown-up children and six grandchildren, became too unwell to work she signed on to Employment Support Allowance (ESA), was then moved on to Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), then back to ESA then back to JSA.

All of these changes added considerable stress, not to mention long periods without any income. She recently went for a job interview as per the conditions of her benefit claim, only to be told she couldn’t be employed as her health conditions meant she would be too expensive to insure.

The 55-year-old visited Norwood and Brixton Foodbank for the first time last month to ask for a three-day food package, because she was having to go without any income for two weeks, even though she has to have a special diet because of her diabetes.

Janice, of Somerleyton Road, Brixton, has a list of other medical conditions including obstructed lungs, high blood pressure, partial blindness in her right eye, and osteoarthritis. She said: “I do not understand why I have been put back on JSA when I walk with a stick.

“I am sick with worry. I have been suffering with depression through all this.

“I have doctors letters saying I am not available for work and I am terrified of losing my flat because of not paying my rent.

“My children have issues of their own to deal with.

“Sometimes I sit in my house for days crying, because I do not know what to do.

“I love it at the foodbank. What they gave me has helped me a hell of a lot.

“They’re life savers. I’m diabetic so would probably be in hospital without them. Once I’m back on my feet I intend to give back.”

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