National charity Macmillan Cancer Support has been left shocked by new government proposals to end the exemption from the work capability assessment (WCA) for claimants undergoing intravenous chemotherapy. They have now started an urgent petition against the move.

The change came about after Macmillan pointed out to the government that oral chemotherapy is often as distressing and debilitating as intravenous and yet does not exempt claimants from the WCA. Macmillan had hoped that the DWP would extend the exemption to claimants undergoing oral chemotherapy, rather than stripping it from all chemotherapy patients.

Macmillan has now launched a press campaign and started a petition calling for the government to make changes to the Welfare Reform Bill to exempt all cancer patients undergoing non-oral and oral chemotherapy treatment from the work capability assessment (WCA) for employment and support allowance (ESA).

Specialists in cancer treatment and cancer charities are urging the government to accept their recommendation that ESA claimants having treatment for cancer should automatically qualify for ESA and be exempted from the WCA. Despite previous reassurances from the government that claimants undergoing cancer treatment would be treated sensitively, fairly, and appropriately the government is now proposing to subject cancer patients to the WCA to prove their incapacity for work.

The Chief Executive of Macmillan expresses concerns not only about the government’​s intention to assess the ability of cancer patients for work, but also highlights the impact the government’​s proposals to stop paying contribution based ESA after 12 months will have on cancer patients “​simply because they have not recovered quickly enough”​.

See also Randeep Ramesh’​s article in the Guardian “​Cancer patients to face welfare tests during chemotherapy, charities warn”​.

In the article Professor Harrington is quoted as having stated in an email that despite compelling evidence from Macmillan “​...I agree with the government that forcing people to a life on benefits when they want to work is wrong...”​

The DWP state “​This must be about an individual’​s needs. Our proposals would ensure a person would only be asked to attend a face-to-face assessment where absolutely necessary.”​

In its response to the Harrington Report the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is now going to carry out an informal consultation exercise on the proposals for patients undergoing cancer treatment because Macmillan will not support the current proposals, see para 35, page 11 of the response which can be found on the DWP website.


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