15 September 2011
A new YouGov poll for Macmillan Cancer Support reveals that two thirds (66%) of Liberal Democrat voters believe cancer patients should be able to receive Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for as long as they are unable to work. This comes a day before Liberal Democrats vote on a party conference motion calling on the Government to scrap plans to cut ESA after 12 months.
Under current proposals in the Welfare Reform Bill, many cancer patients will have this vital out-of-work benefit removed after one year irrespective of whether they are well enough to return to work. Macmillan Cancer Support estimates 7,000 cancer patients will lose up to £94 a week.
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“Tomorrow Liberal Democrat party members have a real chance to stand up for thousands of cancer patients who are scared of losing vital financial support by backing the conference motion calling on the Government to rethink plans to place a time-limit on ESA.
“They should listen to their voters who say that cancer patients who have paid into the system should not have this crucial benefit taken away after just one year because they have not recovered quickly enough. The proposed changes will unnecessarily push people into crisis – costing us all more.
“The side-effects of cancer and its treatment can be extremely debilitating and many patients need longer than a year to recover and get back to work.
“The Government must now make changes to the Welfare Reform Bill and we urge them to remove this poorly thought through proposal.”
Macmillan Cancer Support wants the Bill amended so everyone eligible for ESA who has paid into the system will receive it for as long as they need it. The charity also believes it is unacceptable to make cancer patients wait six months to access Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
For further information, please contact:
Sarah Ross, Senior Media & PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
020 7840 4722 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
1.  Figure from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,167 Liberal Democrat voters in the 2010 General Election. Fieldwork was undertaken between 4th - 6th September 2011. The survey was carried out online.
2. The Liberal Democrat conference party’s Employment and Support Allowance policy motion is taking place at 16:15 on Saturday 17th September (see pg 16)
3. 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 (contributory) 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 24 hours 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 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.
4. 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. Working alongside people affected by cancer, Macmillan works to improve cancer care. More than one in three of us get cancer. Two million of us are living with it. If you are affected by cancer Macmillan can help.