Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The truth about ESA and cancer patients

At PMQs today Ed Milliband used all of his questions on a technicality of the Welfare reform bill, basically justifying his opposition to welfare reform. He used a press release from earlier this week from Macmillan Cancer care which states that 3,000 (or 7,000 depending on who wrote it up) cancer patients faced the removal of up to £94 a week's Employment Support Allowance.

As far as I can see it the reality is this.

Claimants for ESA are divided into two groups:
1) those undergoing treatment (the support group);
2) Those deemed able to perform "work-related activities"

For those in the support group there is no time limit for their claims for ESA. If you are a cancer patient undergoing treatment for 2 years, 3 years, or 5 years  then it appears that you are entitled to ESA.

However if you're in the second group and your treatment has ended and you have been assessed (by a medical test) as being able to perform work related activities, to help you to return to full work, then you face means testing of your work related activities ESA after having received it for 12 months. This means that if you have savings over £16,000 or you have a partners with either works more than 24 hours or earns more than £149 a week that you would lose the entirety of your ESA, otherwise you would lose either a portion of it, or nothing at all.

So will cancer "patients" be worse off by £94 a week? I guess it depends what you call a patient.

Update: I also understand that the government ammended the Bill to ensure that individuals awaiting or between courses of chemotherapy will automatically be placed in the support group and retain their indefinite ESA.

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