I had a double-stroke. Then benefit delays cost me everything I’d worked for

David McCarthy put everything into becoming a self-employed lorry driver, even sleeping in his truck so he could save for a house. His dream came true. Then he suffered a double stroke, the Government denied him help, and he lost everything.

My brother and I ran the business together. I’d been self-employed for about four years and was doing well. But on September 23, 2016, I was delivering a kitchen suite in Leeds and had a double stroke.

I did not know what was going on. I was making a call to the customer and dropped my mobile phone and felt no movement in my arm, and I could not get out of the truck. Luckily I was parked up, but I was on my own. I rang my brother and he raced over and rang an ambulance. Police came too because I was causing an obstruction. I was slurring and they asked if I had taken drugs, but all I’ve ever taken is an asthma spray. My brother got me in his wagon and next thing I knew I was in Leeds General Infirmary. I was there for two days, then was transferred to York.

Then I was turned down for disability benefit and I lost my house.

I had paid my taxes and National Insurance all my life, how the hell could I get turned down? My doctor helped me and wrote letters, and next thing I knew I was at York County Court and got it. At that point I was in a wheelchair because I could not really walk. I was in court for about an hour then they adjourned for half an hour then I was called in and they asked questions.

I said ‘do you really think I like to be in this wheelchair, stuck here? I have worked all my life, then this happens and you tell me I am entitled to nothing?’

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York County Court

I got my benefit back, but it was three months between the double stroke and that happening, and I lost my house in that time as I could not pay for my mortgage. I spoke to the bank and hoped we could come up with a deal but there was nothing they could do, so I had to give the keys back.

Now I am in a shared house and the only thing I have to my name is my car. Thankfully my car insurance is very low because I am a professional driver.

I had been homeless years ago so I could save up to buy a house. I bought a truck and went self-employed and slept in the truck while saving to buy a house. Now I’ve lost everything I worked for.

I had my driving licence revoked for three months and the HGV one revoked for two years. I would love that back. I have nothing else in life. Driving has always been my thing. I can drive to Scarborough and just park up and relax. My brother wants me to live with him but he has children and I don’t think that’s fair for me to do. I have to have a medical next September, to see if I can get my HGV licence back.

Sometimes it’s really difficult. Sometimes I just break down, saying why did this happen to me? Why me? My partner and I separated. We are still good friends but the stress of it all was too much, there were too many arguments; it just wasn’t fair for the children.

I have always been independent and done things myself. I’ve never taken handouts from anybody and never asked anybody for help. When I have to ask for help I feel degraded. I don’t mind helping people out but I don’t like asking myself.

Before court, I could not live on what I had. I was going to my brother’s house and having meals there but that was not what I wanted to do it’s not what I was brought up to do. My father was a military police officer – I was born in Germany then lived in Catterick then Darlington before York – and we were brought up to support ourselves. I have a saying: ‘If you cannot do something yourself, do not bother doing it at all’.

It’s hard now, but that three-month delay in getting my benefit cost me everything. You can have everything but it’s amazing how everything can get taken away from you and it all becomes in the past. I have worked hard to get on in my life then this happens. I have never taken drugs, never drunk, I smoke only occasionally, then this happens. They back-dated my benefit to when I left hospital – but the damage had been done.

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