21 October 2011
Over two thirds (70%) of cancer patients are hit financially through increasing costs and lost income as a direct result of their disease, reveals new research by Macmillan Cancer Support - even before the Government's proposed £94 a week cut to patient support in the controversial Welfare Reform Bill.
A YouGov survey of 1,495 cancer patients found that two thirds (66%) reported an increase in costs as a result of travelling to hospital and/or an increase in household expenses.
Some of their financial situations are so dire that one in six (17%) of those financially affected have been forced to cut back on everyday essentials such as buying food, while one in 20 (5%) skip meals to save money, and nearly one in 12 (7%) are scared of losing their home.
Despite many making cutbacks, nearly a third (29%) of those financially affected have spent all or some of their savings, and nearly one in ten (9%) have borrowed money to cover the additional costs of cancer.
Unsurprisingly, over two fifths (43%) of all cancer patients surveyed are anxious due directly to their financial situation.
Regardless of the negative impact that cancer has on finances, the Government is pressing ahead with welfare reform proposals that will make 7,000 cancer patients up to £94 a week worse off2 due to the changes to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Under another proposal, cancer patients needing immediate financial help to cover extra costs following their diagnosis will be forced to wait six months instead of three to get the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which replaces Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
One cancer patient who is struggling financially is Karen Davies, 51, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. She says:
“I was about to start a new job when I was diagnosed but couldn’t because of my treatment. The extra costs mounted up quickly and were really frightening. They included travelling back and forth from the hospital plus the car parking.
“After my diagnosis I needed financial help straight away but I had to wait three months before I could get my DLA. Waiting a further three months for DLA would have given me a nervous breakdown. I’d have gone back to work and not had the operation for fear of going into debt.”
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“Cancer is an expensive disease to live with, but this research shows just how close to the breadline many cancer patients really are. While we understand the benefits system is in need of reform, certain changes in the Welfare Reform Bill could have catastrophic effects on many families who are already struggling. We know many Lords oppose these proposals and hope they support cancer patients as the Bill makes its way through Parliament.”
Macmillan Cancer Support wants the Bill amended so everyone eligible for ESA will receive it for as long as they need it, not for an arbitrary fixed period. The charity also believes it is unacceptable to make cancer patients wait six months to access PIP as costs associated with cancer kick in from the point of diagnosis.
For further information, please contact:
Sarah Ross, Senior Media and PR Officer
020 7840 4722 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Extra case study quotes:
“I can’t believe that the Government is planning to take away all my ESA after just twelve months. I was diagnosed with renal cancer and have had a kidney removed. I’m still in a lot of pain, I need a stick to walk and get awful pins and needles down my legs. Without my ESA my wife and I would find it really difficult to get by. We have used up virtually all our savings already. I’ve worked all my life and paid into the system but this doesn’t seem to mean anything.” Stephen Townend, 56, Halifax
Notes to Editors:
 YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,495 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st and 16th August 2011. The survey was carried out online. The figures have not been weighted. A quarter surveyed (25%) have an annual income of less than £15,000 a year.
 Macmillan estimates that 7,000 cancer patients could lose up to £94 a week. 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.
Despite time-limiting ESA being debated in PMQs on 15th June and the Lib Dems opposing this at their conference, the Government has still made no commitment to amending this proposal.
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 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.
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.
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.