Benefits – Government climbs down a step

Money woes hit cancer patients

but bullies made to climb down


If having chemotherapy wasn’t bad enough, under new Government regulations patients faced losing a large part of their entitlement to benefit if they weren’t able to work.

Now, after a barrage of criticism from Age Concern, Macmillan and many, many others, the government has rewritten plans to change benefits for cancer patients.

Getting real, it has said “it was clear some patients were unfairly missing out on support.

So having spent millions on changing the rules (without listening to those who understand these things), La La’s bully boys have had to climb down – a bit.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

The dispute centres on the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) system, which divides claimants into two categories.

Previously, only those receiving non-oral chemotherapy were eligible for unconditional assistance, but now a wider range of drug and radiation treatment will be included.

But Macmillan said some patients could still be made to undergo medical assessments before receiving benefits.

These assessments can be undertaken by civil servants with no medical training, and as polio patients have found, no understanding of medical problems of those faced with diseases.  e.g. some polio patients are able to shuffle a few steps – then that’s it.  Assessors were saying “let’s see you walk”, then after three or four steps, ticked the box that said they were able to walk – and didn’t wait to see if patient was even able to return to where they started.

The government was hoping to introduce the amended plans from April, but having failed to secure Macmillan’s support, was launching a consultation to obtain a wider range of views.  One questions why La La didn’t consult with charities before starting this?  Why waste yet more money on expensive ‘consultations’?

Those deemed to have limited capacity for work are placed in the Support Group and are not required to undertake any work-related activity.

Those who are deemed able to perform “work-related activities” which might help them eventually return to work face means-testing after 12 months.


Under the government’s original proposals, only those patients whose chemotherapy drugs were injected into a vein, the abdomen or the spinal canal would automatically be placed in the Support Group.  This took no account of radiotherapy or hormone therapy treatment, which can be equally devastating.


[We] remain of the view that automatic entitlement is vitally important for cancer patients receiving treatment”

Macmillan Cancer

Those receiving chemotherapy drugs orally – perhaps taking tablets at home rather than visiting a hospital – or receiving radiation only would go into the work-related activity category.

The consultation document states: “This was based on a view that invasive chemotherapy is more debilitating in most circumstances than oral chemotherapy. However, this view is no longer supported by the evidence.”

It goes on to say that evidence provided by Macmillan “supports the view that all forms of chemotherapy may cause substantial debilitation” and severe side-effects.

The rewritten plans presume that any individual undergoing any form of chemotherapy or site-specific radiotherapy should be in the Support Group, without them having to undergo a medical assessment.

It says that in “a small number of cases, where the evidence indicated that the debilitating effects might be limited” individuals may be invited for a medical assessment to judge their fitness to work.

But Macmillan said it was still not happy with the proposals.

As well as widening the eligibility, guaranteed entitlement to entry into the Support Group has been amended to a “presumption” based on “a paper assessment”.

But Macmillan are standing firm, saying the original idea “was an erosion of the legal protection given to patients and it was unclear what the paper assessment would involve”.

“We don’t agree with this proposal and remain of the view that automatic entitlement is vitally important for cancer patients receiving treatment,” the charity added.

What you can do

If this affects you

  1. Keep an eye out on Macmillan’s website for updates   0808 808 00 00
  2. Or contact Age UK       0800 `69 6565
  3. Keep an eye out for petitions – from Macmillan, 38 Degrees, etc.  The cowardly Government are learning to hate these!
  4. Let your MP know you are worried.


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