The main form of financial support for the long term sick and disabled is the Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
Once upon a time, cancer patients undergoing radio or chemotherapy intravenously were placed in the support group of ESA where they received unconditional support. However, those receiving radio or chemotherapy orally were placed in the Work Related Activity Group of ESA where they were forced to attend work related interviews and complete other work related activity or face having part or all of their support withdrawn.
My mother died of cancer. A large part of her treatment consisted of oral chemotherapy. Oral because it was slightly less invasive than intravenous chemotherapy. And, as anyone who has known a cancer patient can tell you, it doesn’t matter whether radio or chemo is delivered orally or intravenously as it’s still incredibly debilitating. These treatments work by poisoning the body and destroying its immune system in the hope of halting or killing off the Cancer cells at the same time. People undergoing treatment spend most of the time between treatments feeling incredibly ill and are lucky if they even have a couple of days in the cycle where they feel something approaching normal. Each day they are forced to swallow sometimes up to a dozen of the same pills that are making them feel so terrible just in the hope that it might save their life. It’s a horrific thing to go through, and traumatic for those around a cancer patient to witness. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Macmillan Cancer Support objected to the situation as being unfair on those cancer patients undergoing this oral treatment because of its debilitating effects being equal to those of intravenous chemotherapy.
The Government agreed, in its response to the Harrington Review, that this discrepancy should not exist. However, they chose to deal with it by putting all Cancer patients undergoing therapy liable for ongoing assessments by ATOS. Now both groups of cancer patients will have to jump through the work related activity hoops or face the financial sanctions. This is a slight improvement only because they have now conceded that cancer patients might not be well enough to physically intend interviews in person and so will only have to worry about completing paper ‘work related activity’. This is not the change Macmillan wanted to see.
In my opinion, it’s still absolutely wrong that cancer patients, some of them with no hope of recovery, should be expected to fill in forms and jump through bureaucratic hoops while fighting for their lives. The Government has suspended the change pending further consultation, so this gives us an opportunity to try to persuade them to do the right thing.
That’s why this petition to get the government to change its mind was started. Please go and sign it and please write to our ministers and MPs about it. This decision is wrong and we owe it to cancer patients to do all we can to reverse it.