Benefits changes ‘could cost cancer patients their homes’

Dr Fran Woodard, McMillan Cancer Support
Dr Fran Woodard, McMillan Cancer Support
Have your say

BENEFIT cuts could leave cancer patients at risk of losing their homes, a charity has warned.

Macmillan Cancer Support commissioned research of almost 1,000 people with cancer and found that 10 per cent would be unable - or would struggle - to pay their rent or mortgage if they lost £30 a week.

From 2017, people judged as too ill to work, but who may be capable of work at some time in the future, will lose £30 a week under planned Government changes, the charity said.

Presently, at least 3,200 people with cancer currently receive the ‘work related activity’ element of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Those on the benefit receive £102.15 a week if they are too ill to work but may be able to work at some point in the future.

Dr Fran Woodard, executive director of policy and impact at Macmillan, said: “The devastating impact that changes to Employment and Support Allowance will have on the lives of people with cancer is clear.

“It’s truly distressing to think that people with cancer could be forced out of their homes or fear a knock on the door from bailiffs at a time when they should be focused on recovering.

“Macmillan, along with a number of other health charities, has been calling on the Government to remove their proposed cuts to Employment and Support Allowance from the Welfare Reform and Work Bill since they were announced in July. They have so far refused to listen to us.

“As the Bill moves to its final stages, the Government can no longer ignore the reality of what they’re doing. They desperately need to rethink these proposals.”

Terry White, 62, from Nottinghamshire, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2009.

He said: “I’d worked hard as an electrician and seven years before my diagnosis had bought my dream family home. But then treatment started and my income vanished and for the first time in my life I needed the benefit system. Sick pay, redundancy payments and benefits just weren’t enough to cover the added expenses that come with cancer, let alone my mortgage repayments and we got behind.

“I had no choice but to sell the house I’d worked so hard for and to ask my two sons to find their own living arrangements. Losing my house was an added stress I didn’t need whilst facing cancer and going through gruelling chemotherapy. I can’t imagine surviving on any less money.”

A Government spokesman said: “The vast majority of people with cancer will continue to receive additional top up payments and nobody claiming ESA is required to get a job.

“People currently claiming Employment and Support Allowance will not see their benefit change as a result of this reform.”