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Government Welfare plans will hit over one million
A group of 30 charities has written to the government expressing concern that planned welfare changes could push some people with cancer into poverty.
The main problem is lack of disability awareness by the people making the decisions.
It was someone working for a polio charity who alerted me to the problems that changes to benefit rules are bringing up, and I realised that these changes will have a massive affect on cancer patients as well.
Yet again, another new ‘initiative’ has official agencies using draconian powers to get needy benefit claimants fighting again for what they are entitled to. The aim is obviously to weed out those who falsely claim for benefits, but surely there is no need to petrify those whose lives depend on what little benefit they are able to claim?
For many people, they face worrying times whilst they fill out interminable forms, apply – and find their application has been ‘lost’ (generally because some petty official can’t be bothered to look and see where it has gone). When this happens two ways of getting action are
- Say your computer has crashed so you can’t get hold of original material – so they will have to keep on looking
- Put the phone down – wait a couple of minutes then phone again. You usually get a different person, who doesn’t know your application has been ‘lost’ and usually ‘finds’ it
Or you wait and wait for an appointment to discuss yur case with an official – who often callously cancels the appointment at the last minute. When this happens, a good ploy is to phone and ask if they could give you some explanation, as you are seeing your MP on (mention a date within the week). It is surprising how many officials suddenly find they have time to see you.
Hilary and others tell me time and time again that this is what happens. In this age of computers the way claims are handled is a disgrace – but no-one in the Government seems aware of reality – or to care what is happening.
Charities have voiced fears about delays in awarding the benefit which replaces disability living allowance, and over withdrawal of other benefits.
The Department for Work and Pensions explanation for this was – wait for it – it was “protecting those who need the most help”. They may fool themselves, but for needy patients this is just another slap in the face.
The charities’ open letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has been published in the Guardian under
“We are extremely concerned that changes to disability benefits will mean that a significant number of people with cancer will be left without vital financial support at a time when they need it the most.
“We would like to work with you to make sure this government’s welfare reforms do not have the very undesirable consequence of pushing some people with cancer into poverty.”
They told Mr Duncan Smith they welcomed proposals to “simplify a system that is currently confusing and bureaucratic” and to make “the transition from benefits to work easier”.
However, the charities said they were “very concerned” that people with cancer would have to wait six months before they could claim the new personal independence payment (PIP), which replaces the disability living allowance (DLA).
They also said they were worried about plans in the bill to withdraw employment support allowance (ESA) from some cancer patients after a year.
‘Make ends meet‘
Their letter said: “The majority of people with cancer who are out of work want to return to work.
“It can represent a milestone in their recovery and a return to normality, in addition to the obvious financial benefits.
“We believe that this proposal, rather than creating an incentive to work, will lead to many cancer patients losing their ESA simply because they have not recovered quickly enough.”
The charities told the Work and Pensions Secretary that people with cancer were very worried about how the bill would affect them.
“Living with cancer is expensive and many people rely on benefits to make ends meet,” they said.
Whom next to contact?
The charities signing the letter included Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care and the Teenage Cancer Trust. If you haven’t already done so, they all have staff who are experts at dealing with benefits applications, and almost certainly will be able to give very, very good and helpful advice.
Contact your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau
Contact your local MP. If they are an opposition MP, you are better off, because the Opposition party always wants a reason to go for the Government in power.
You could also use phrases from the letter above, or ask why you were being kept waiting – The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said it had accepted the conclusions of a review of the ESA system by Professor Malcolm Harrington. So throw its words back at it.
A DWP spokesman said: “We are changing the welfare system because in its current state it’s not working. In all our changes we are protecting those who need the most help. ”
- Changes to the benefits system outlined in the bill include a single universal credit to replace six income-related work-based benefits from 2013.
- There will also be an annual benefit cap of about £26,000 per family, and those refusing to work face a loss of benefits for up to three years.
- Prime Minister David Cameron has said the changes would “make work pay for some of the poorest people in our society”.
Another avenue of help
Meanwhile, a report from the think tank Demos suggests that British workers are among the worst protected among 12 developed nations in terms of benefits if they are off work sick.
A measure of the level of protection employees have in the case of ill health from both the state and private sector placed the UK in eighth place, below nations including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada and the US.
Demos says that middle earners are more vulnerable to the financial difficulties if they are made unemployed.
Its report says savers and homeowners were being “penalised” by means testing for savings above £16,000 if they were off work ill and is calling for an exemption for the first six months of unemployment to “soften the blow”.
So contact your MEP.
Why your MEP?
Because over 70% of the United Kingdom’s laws are now passed on orders from Brussels. Therefore, MEPs have a huge amount of power; I have found this myself when needing clout. An MEP’s cudgel can work a treat.
Although they are based in Brussels, they will hop on Eurostar or a plane at the drop of a hat, so if you want to meet one you won’t have long to wait.
And because most people in Britain don’t understand, or want to know what MEPs do, not only do they have more time than MPs to help, but they are keen to be seen to work.
And best of luck – let’s hope that something in this article might be the catalyst that gets things working. I hope so.