Cancer pensioner denied funeral payout

Harry McCafferty and his wife Jean.  (2701JB49)
Harry McCafferty and his wife Jean. (2701JB49)

Derry Credit Union has told a pensioner with six months to live that he’s not entitled to a funeral costs payout due to a change in policy.

Harry McCafferty (75), of Cornshell Fields, was diagnosed with three types of cancer after being admitted to hospital following a heart attack last October.

After coming to terms with the traumatic news that he had just months to live, the long-time member of Derry Credit Union then enquired about death benefit insurance (DBI) provided by the body.

However, he was dismayed to be told that due to a policy change which was passed at the AGM of Derry Credit Union in November last, he was no longer eligible for the £1,000 DBI pay out.

He learned that the DBI had been previously provided for all Derry Credit Union members of two years or more, but on November 21 the body’s membership unanimously passed a motion that ‘the DBI for the year 2012 be paid for by members by way of a deduction from dividend and/or interest rate rebate’.

Mr McCafferty, who also holds an account in Pennyburn Credit Union, where death benefit insurance was not provided, did not have sufficient dividend in Derry Credit Union to pay the insurance premium. But he says he didn’t realise that until it was too late. By the time he enquired about his DBI policy, the December cut-off date for premium payment had passed.

Mr McCafferty told the ‘Journal’: “I received no notification that the decision had been taken, I received no letter, I simply knew nothing of it. I had enough money in the account to pay the premium, which was around £6, but did not know that I had to do it.”

The bitterly disappointed member added: “They said they sent a letter in November to inform me of the new ruling but if they had I would have checked it up, I would have ensured everything was up to date.”

Mr McCafferty said he was told about the change in policy when he went to complete a form to “sign over” his savings to his wife Jean. “I was told I would get nothing in terms of death benefit payment because of the new law.”

He was further told in a letter this week that transferred accounts “maintain all insurance benefits” but because he maintained his Abbey Street account when he moved the bulk of his savings to Pennyburn, benefits were not maintained because it was not deemed to be a transfer.

Mr McCafferty said he is not dependent on the money for his funeral arrangements but that he feels he should pursue the matter “on principle” and to ensure others are aware of the situation.

“I don’t need the money to help my wife cover the funeral expenses so if they do decide that I am entitled to it they can give it to the Macmillan Cancer Care. It’s the principal of the thing, I feel let down.”

A spokesperson for Derry Credit Union urged Mr McCafferty to engage in the body’s complaints procedure.

“Under the Data Protection Act cannot discuss individual accounts in the public domain.

“There is a complaints procedure for dealing with these matters and if he wishes to pursue it he can call at the credit union and he will be given assistance. The credit union will always act in the best interests of all its members.”