A GREENOCK mum who is recovering from a brain tumour was left penniless after a blunder by benefit bosses.

Mum-of-two Ellen Cole, who underwent life saving surgery just months ago, was left without money to live on after an error by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The 41-year-old, who now suffers from balance problems, nerve damage in her neck and poor memory following her major surgery, is supposed to be resting as part of her recovery programme.

But she has been left angry after her Universal Credit payments failed to go into her bank account – despite there being no issue with her claim.

Ellen, of Cumberland Road, said: “The system is a total shambles and I’ve made an official complaint about it.

“It has caused me so much stress and I feel like I’m getting kicked left, right and centre.

“I rely on that money to live on.

“Luckily my family and friends have been able to help me out, but I want to speak out for all the people who don’t have someone there to help them. This could tip them over the edge.”

Ellen’s ordeal began in June last year when was diagnosed with a brain tumour after suffering from painful headaches which were brought on when she laughed, coughed or sneezed.

One month later she underwent a major six hour operation to save her life.

But Ellen, who has worked all her life, was let go from her job as an assistant cook in St Columba’s High School in Gourock just days before Christmas.

This meant she was forced to claim Universal Credit – a new single benefits scheme which merges six working age benefits into one payment.

She said: “In April last year I got a job working for Inverclyde Council as an assistant cook.

“I had my operation during the school holidays and I was planning to go back to work straight afterwards.

“But after the surgery I was very poorly.

“My balance has gone on my left side and I also have nerve damage in my neck, as well as post operative cognitive memory problems.

“I was forced to go on sick leave as doctors said it could take up to a year to fully recover, but on 21 December I was paid off.

“It was quite a blow and I felt like I was being kicked when I was down.

“I was really looking forward to going back to work after I recovered, it was giving me something to aim for.

“I asked if they could just keep my position open for me but they said they couldn’t do that.

“That’s why I had to claim for Universal Credit, but that has been a complete shambles.”

The Department for Work and Pensions has now been forced to apologise to Ellen.

A spokesman at the DWP admitted there had been a mix-up with her payment.

He said: “We are very sorry for this administrative error that led to non-payment. We have apologised to Ms Cole and have made sure she has now received the correct payments.”

A spokesman for Inverclyde Council today defended their treatment of Ellen, and that she would be considered for work when she has fully recovered.

He said: “We wouldn’t discuss in detail an employee’s particular circumstances, but length of service is taken into account when occupational sick pay is calculated and an employee with short service is obviously entitled to less.  

“In addition, the council enlists external occupational health specialists to support employees and to provide an independent view on an employee’s fitness to return to work. 

“In the case of Ellen, our human resources service have made clear that we would consider her for future vacancies if she were interested in applying and considered medically fit to work.”

Ellen, who previously spent two years working in war-torn Afghanistan while serving as a cook in the Army, hopes her story will lead to change.

She added: “There should be a better system in place to look after people who are really not well.

“I’ve worked all my life, I love working and that’s where I want to be.

“People like myself are trying to get back on their feet from illness, but the system is making it very difficult.

“It should look to support people.”