Cancer patients could be put at risk of losing their homes if planned cuts to crucial sickness benefits go ahead, a new report by Macmillan Cancer Support warns.
The charity says proposed cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which would result in support being slashed by £30 a week for people in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA, would leave cancer patients unable to pay their rent or mortgage.
The ESA WRAG consists of sick and disabled people who the Department of Work and Pensions accept are unable to work, but who may be able to return to work in the future if their condition improves.
People in receipt of ESA are at a “drastically higher risk” of being made homeless, according to a survey of cancer patients carried out by Truth Consulting on behalf of Macmillan.
More than one in three cancer patients surveyed by Macmillan say they would struggle or be unable to pay housing costs if their sickness benefits were cut.
Official Government figures show at least 3,200 people with cancer currently receive the WRAG element of ESA. Despite this, the Government is seeking to slash the £102.15 a week benefit by almost a third.
Macmillan says ESA is a “vital benefit” that many people with cancer rely on at some point in their lives, and has called on the Government to remove plans to cut ESA from the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.
Earlier research by the charity reveals how living with cancer can be extremely expensive, with patients incurring extra costs such as transport and heating, whilst also being left unable to work.
Macmillan also says that further reducing cancer patient’s income by cutting ESA “would push people over the edge financially”.
Terry White, 62, from Nottinghamshire, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2009 and was sadly forced to give up working as an electrician.
Mr White says: “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.”
Dr Fran Woodard, Executive Director of Policy and Impact at Macmillan Cancer Support says: “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.”
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith MP urged Tory ministers to “look at their consciences” and drop the proposed cuts to ESA.
Owen Smith said: “The government should be ashamed of the findings in this report. Being struck by this cruel disease is a worry for all families and it’s unacceptable that these cuts could force victims out of their homes.
“Labour opposed these plans in the Commons, so we are calling on Tory ministers to look at their consciences and come back before Parliament with plans to drop these cuts from the Bill.”