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Find out how changes to the welfare system could impact people with cancer.
Julian was diagnosed with duodenal adenocarcinoma in 2008 and received emergency surgery. A year later the cancer had spread and he needed more surgery. Under new proposals he may lose his Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because his partner works full time.
'Due to surgery I had to leave work as I’m in constant pain and experience severe fatigue. I intend to return to my job and will do what I can to make sure that happens as soon as possible.
'Before I got ESA we were struggling to pay rent and bills. If it was taken away now I’m not sure how we’d manage.'
Stephen was diagnosed with renal cancer and had surgery to remove a kidney. Treatment has left him with severe pain in his lower back and legs. The Government's welfare proposals mean that because his partner works 26 hours a week and earns roughly £160 per week, he will lose his ESA after a year.
“I can’t believe that the Government is planning to take away all my ESA after just 12 months because my wife works more than 24 hours a week. I’m still in a lot of pain, I need a stick to walk and get awful pins and needles down my legs. I have to wear shorts all the time because my skin in so sensitive. We have used up virtually all our savings already. I have worked all my life and paid into the system but this doesn’t seem to mean anything.”
Karen started treatment within a month of being diagnosed with breast cancer. She says that without Disability Living Allowance (DLA) she would have sunk into debt:
'I was about to start a new job when I was diagnosed but couldn’t because of my treatment, so I had no wage or sick pay coming in.
'The extra costs mounted up quickly and were really frightening: travelling back and forth from the hospital, plus the car parking. I also had to buy special bras because of my breast removal. I needed help straight away but I had to wait three months before I could get my DLA.
'Waiting yet another three months for DLA would have given me a nervous breakdown. I think I’d have gone back to work and not had the operation for fear of going into debt.'
Karen has been a Macmillan benefits adviser for over four years. She sees firsthand the difference benefits can make to someone who's fighting cancer:
'When people are diagnosed with cancer they're overwhelmed. As well as coming to terms with their diagnosis, the financial impact of their cancer hits them.
'The benefits system is by no means perfect and I support plans to simplify it, but the government must understand that some of these changes to crucial benefits, such as ESA and DLA, will have a devastating impact on many cancer patients, who are already struggling.'
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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