Life is already hard for cancer patients. Don’t make it harder

Alex Hern covers the response from Macmillan cancer support to the government’s welfare reform bill, now in the House of Lords.

New research from Macmillan cancer support shows that even before the government cuts to incapacity benefit and employment support allowance comes through, over 70 per cent of cancer patients are financially harmed by their illness. One in six have are hit so hard that they have been forced to cut back on everyday essentials such as buying food.

When the proposed changes – which are predicted to cost cancer patients up to £94 a week – are introduced, life will get harder still.

A Macmillan spokesman said:

“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 off 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).”

Ciarán Devane, the chief executive of Macmillan, added:

“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.”

Left Foot Forward has covered this issue before, but with the Lords now the last chance to prevent this becoming law, it is more important than ever that people know just how much the poor and sick stand to lose. In June, we analysed the attempt to “save” money by limiting the ESA:

Over a 15-year process of welfare ‘reform’, successive governments have tightened a flawed assessment of fitness for work which has resulted, at a conservative estimate, in half a million people who are sick or disabled and unable to work being wrongly disallowed benefit.

But here’s a wheeze. If you cut the period Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) can be paid as a contributory (National Insurance) benefit, at a stroke you can remove it from large numbers of people who thought they had paid into a contributory scheme, without all the bother of paying a multinational even more taxpayers’ money to ‘assess’ sick people off benefits.

From next year, the government intends to restrict national insurance-based ESA to one year. Among other things, this will mean 280,000 people who received the benefit because they are not fit for work will lose £4,500 a year without first being found fit for work.

As we said at the time:

Cancer is a disease that can strike anyone down at any point in time, unforseen, unexpected; for those in recovery, those fortunate to recover, for them and their families, having been through all they have, to be treated this way is unacceptable.

See also:

Yet another nasty in the welfare bill: Means testing support for the disabled-since-youthDeclan Gaffney, September 22nd 2011

Poor and sick paying the heaviest price for Osborne’s deficit reductionSteve Griffiths, June 28th 2011

PMQs cancer row: MacMillan back MilibandShamik Das, June 15th 2011

Last chance to have your say on Employment Support AllowanceSue Marsh, April 11th 2011

ESA cuts will exacerbate poverty and remove help for disabledNeil Coyle, March 8th 2011

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