13 June 2011
Thousands of cancer patients who rely on a vital out of work benefit could lose up to £94 a week as the government seeks to cut costs, warns leading cancer charity Macmillan Cancer Support.
Under the Welfare Reform Bill plans many cancer patients will have their Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) removed after one year irrespective of whether they are ready to return to work. Macmillan Cancer Support estimates nearly 7,000 cancer patients will be affected by this change which will leave some without crucial financial support at a time when they are simply unable to return to work.
One cancer patient who will be hit by this change is Julian, 45, from London, diagnosed with cancer of the small intestine in 2008. He says:
“After surgery I left work as I’m in constant pain and suffer severe fatigue. I’m really worried that the government would take away ESA from someone in my position after just one year. Before I got ESA my partner and I really struggled to pay the rent and bills. Without it, I’m not sure how we’d manage. I want to return to my job, but the simple fact is that it can take a long time to recover from cancer. I have worked all my adult life and can’t believe the government is planning to make savings at the expense of people like me who are ill.”
Cancer is expensive and for many patients it takes longer than a year to return to work. This is evident from the government’s own statistics which show that 94% of claimants, including cancer patients, will still need ESA after one year.
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“Many cancer patients will lose this crucial benefit simply because they have not recovered quickly enough. The majority want to return to work as it can represent a milestone in their recovery and a return to normality, in addition to the obvious financial benefits.
“This proposal in the Welfare Reform Bill will have a devastating impact on many cancer patients. We are urging the government to change their plans to reform key disability benefits to ensure cancer patients and their families are not pushed into poverty.”
Professor Jane Maher, Chief Medical Officer of Macmillan Cancer Support, adds:
“In my experience one year is simply not long enough for many people to recover from cancer. The serious physical and psychological side-effects of cancer can last for many months, even years, after treatment has finished. It is crucial that patients are not forced to return to work before they are ready.”
Macmillan Cancer Support wants the Bill amended so everyone eligible for ESA will receive it for as long as they need it, regardless of their financial circumstances. The charity also believes it is unacceptable to make cancer patients wait six months to access Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
***Case studies available***
For further information, please contact:
Sarah Ross, Senior Media and PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
020 7840 4722 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
The Welfare Reform Bill’s Report Stage is taking place in Parliament on Monday 13 June.
1. Time-limiting Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
After applying for ESA some people living with cancer will be placed in the ESA Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG). This means they are required to do work-related activities in order to receive their benefit. The Government is proposing that people who claim ESA based on their National Insurance contributions (contributions-based) and are placed in the WRAG should only be able to claim this benefit for 12 months before it is means-tested. After one year a claimant whose partner works more than just 24hours or earns only £149 per week would lose all of their ESA.
People living with cancer who are placed in the ESA Support Group don’t have to carry out work-related activities to get their benefit. People in the Support Group will not be affected by this change.
Macmillan’s healthcare professionals are clear that many people living with cancer will need longer than 12 months before they are ready to return to work. The Government’s own statistics show that 94% of people with cancer who are placed in the WRAG need ESA for longer than 12-months.
Macmillan believes that people with cancer who have worked and paid into the system before becoming ill should be supported, without risk of their ESA being cut after a year.
Macmillan estimates that 7,000 cancer patients will be affected by this change. This figure is based on estimates of the number of cancer patients on contributory benefits who are in the Work-Related Activity Group of ESA or currently claiming Incapacity Benefit but will be placed in the Work-Related Activity Group following the reassessment of all Incapacity Benefit claimants.
In response to a recent parliamentary question the Government estimated that 94% of all contributory ESA claimants in the Work-Related Activity Group will require ESA for longer than one year.
2. Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
The Government is proposing that DLA should be replaced with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP). As part of the new benefit the Government wants to double the period that someone is required to demonstrate need before they make a claim for benefit from 3 months to 6 months. However, cancer treatment results in a sudden onset of daily living and/or mobility needs. The need for help with daily living and getting around can start immediately and escalate rapidly. Making cancer patients wait for 6 months before they can even apply for vital support is simply unfair.
Macmillan believes that people who experience a sudden onset of debilitation which is likely to be long-term should be entitled to apply for PIP as soon as their support needs arise.
About Macmillan Cancer Support:
Macmillan Cancer Support improves the lives of people affected by cancer, providing practical, medical, emotional and financial support and works to improve cancer care.
Visit www.macmillan.org.uk for more information or freephone 0808 808 00 00 for an information pack.