A leading UK cancer charity has warned that cancer patients could be at risk of becoming homeless if proposed government cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) go ahead.
According to research commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support and conducted by Truth Consulting, 10% of people living with cancer in the UK would be unable, or would struggle, to pay their rent or mortgage if they lost £30 a week.
Macmillan says that from 2017, people who are independently assessed as too ill to work, but who may be capable of work at some time in the future, will have their weekly allowances cut by £30 under the planned government changes.
However, the risk of becoming homeless is even greater for people currently in receipt of ESA, with 36% of those surveyed in this category saying they would be unable to meet their rent or mortgage commitments if their benefit was cut by £30 a week.
Government Should Scrap Cuts, says Macmillan
At present, there are at least 3,200 people in the UK who receive the ‘work related activity’ element of ESA, according to the latest government figures. These people are currently given £102.15 a week if they are too ill to work, but may be capable of working in the future.
Macmillan is calling on the government to scrap its proposed cuts to the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) from the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, in light of the survey’s findings.
Macmillan said that many people with cancer will receive the benefit at some point in their lives. Furthermore, Macmillan indicated that many cancer patients already incur additional costs because of their treatment, including transport and heating, while they are unable to work.
Terry White, 62, from Nottinghamshire, told the charity that he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2009 and it dramatically changed his life.
Seven years prior to his diagnosis, Terry had bought his dream family home, having worked hard as an electrician. But when his treatment started and his income vanished overnight, he had to rely on the benefit system for the first time in his life.
Cuts Will Have a ‘Devastating Impact’ on Cancer Patients
Terry said that “sick pay, redundancy payments and benefits just weren’t enough” to cover the additional costs associated with cancer, let alone his mortgage repayments. He inevitably fell behind and had no other choice but to sell the dream family home he’d worked so hard for.
Losing the house was an added stress that he didn’t need while undergoing his “gruelling chemotherapy”. He said he couldn’t imagine surviving on any less money.
Dr Fran Woodard, Executive Director of Policy and Impact at Macmillan Cancer Support 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.”
It is important people realise what benefit they will receive from the state in times of illness, especially with potential long-term illnesses such as cancer. We all want to think the state will look after us but this is not always going to be the case. People need to think about protecting their income when they are healthy so they have income when they are incapacitated. We are supporting the 7Families initiative which is designed to highlight the need.
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