15 June 2011
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“At last the concerns of thousands of cancer patients who are fearful of their vital benefits being removed have been raised in PMQs today.
“Cancer patients want to return to work, and want the support that enables them to do so. But not all are able to. This afternoon* the government has the opportunity to make changes to the Welfare Reform Bill so that cancer patients who are unable to work because of their condition do not lose crucial financial support simply because they have not recovered quickly enough.
“We want people who have paid into the system before becoming ill to receive ESA for as long as they are unable to work. We will be very disappointed if the government fail to make these changes.
“If the government wants a benefits system which is ‘fairer’ they must not penalise cancer patients.”
For further information, please contact:
Sarah Ross, Senior Media & PR Officer of 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 Wednesday 15th 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.