Thursday, 2 February 2012

Concern for cancer patients' benefits

PEOPLE living with cancer in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have warned MPs that the Westminster government's welfare changes could push cancer patients and their families into poverty. 

Groups of disabled, sick and other people have been making similar points, but yesterday the coalition government voted down amendments that would have ameliorated what critics say are some of the worst aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill.

Writing in the Herald newspaper, Elspeth Atkinson, director of Macmillan Cancer Support in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales says: Cancer patients want to work. They haven't chosen to give up the safety of employment. The assertion that providing hard-earned benefits at a time of greatest need encourages a dependency by seriously ill cancer patients on benefits is simply not based on fact.

The Government's plan to cut Employment Support Allowance after one year will leave around 7,000 cancer patients up to £94 worse off each week, simply because they have not recovered quickly enough. These are people who have paid into the system all their working lives and it is wrong to put them under further financial and emotional distress on top of recovering from a life-threatening illness.

In our experience of treating and supporting cancer patients, one year is not long enough for many people to recover from cancer treatment. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be highly debilitating. The ongoing and severe side-effects can leave patients struggling for years. Although there is clear evidence that one year is not long enough for patients to recover, the Government seems determined to press ahead with the changes. 

We accept the benefits system is in need of reform. However, cutting help for cancer patients will only succeed in causing stress and worry to people going through an already difficult time.

Macmillan Cancer Support in Scotland offers practical, emotional and financial help to people affected by cancer. It provides trained medical professionals to the NHS and have cancer centres throughout the country where people receive expert care in a specially-designed environment. It also campaigns to improve the lives of people in Scotland living with cancer.

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