Charity warns cancer patients threatened with benefit cuts

Terminally ill cancer patients and people undergoing chemotherapy are being threatened with having their benefits cut unless they attend back-to-work interviews, a cancer charity has warned.

Macmillan Cancer Support, along with Citizens Advice, has said the process for signing people on to the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), introduced last October to replace Incapacity Benefit, is failing seriously ill and disabled people, despite assurances from the government that they would be safeguarded.

Its Failed by the System report found evidence that terminally ill cancer patients and people receiving non-oral chemotherapy were being required to undergo medical examinations and attend work-focused interviews when they should be automatically exempt from both.

Macmillan Cancer Support also found examples of in-patients and people who were undergoing or recovering from radiotherapy being refused ESA, and cancer patients suffering from the long-term effects of cancer or cancer treatment failing the medical assessment and being refused ESA.

It blamed poor knowledge of ESA rules among Jobcentre Plus and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) medical staff, inadequate administration systems, and a lack of understanding about cancer and the effects of treatment.

Mike Hobday, head of campaigns at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “It’s cruel and completely unacceptable that people who are terminally ill or going through gruelling treatment are being made to jump through hoops to get money they should receive automatically. The DWP must address these issues without delay.”

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