Callous Government Policy Will See One in 10 Cancer Patients Face Homelessness
CANCER-STRIKEN Britons face homelessness as the Tories prepare to cut a vital benefit, Macmillan Cancer Support has warned.
According to the charity’s research published today one in 10 cancer patients will struggle or even be unable to pay their rent or mortgage once the government cuts the employment and support allowance (ESA).
Under new Tory policy, from 2017 those too sick to work but potentially capable of working in the future will lose £30 a week from their benefits.
But the charity warned that this is all it could take for thousands diagnosed with cancer to lose their homes.
Around 3,200 people with cancer currently rely on the “work-related activity” support from ESA to get by.
Electrician Terry White was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2009, having bought the home of his dreams just seven years earlier.
“Treatment started and my income vanished and for the first time in my life I needed the benefit system,” he said.
“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 while facing cancer and going through gruelling chemotherapy.
“I can’t imagine surviving on any less money.”
Currently, ESA recipients get £102.15 a week, Macmillan said that many cancer sufferers receive the grant at some point while ill.
The charity’s policy director Dr Fran Woodard said the cuts to ESA would have a “devastating impact” on people living with cancer.
“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,” she said.
Macmillan, along with a number of other health charities, has been calling on the government to remove its proposed cuts to ESA from the Welfare Reform and Work Bill since they were announced in July.
“They have so far refused to listen to us,” said Ms Woodard.
“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.”
Ms Woodard’s words were backed up by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), which has been fighting against further reductions to sickness support including the ESA.
The group’s co-founder Linda Burnip told the Star: “It seems that the callousness of this government knows no limits.
“At a time when people so obviously need as much support as possible to try to fight against cancer, to be faced with the loss of their homes and the fear this causes is completely unacceptable.”
A government spokesman insisted no cancer-suffering claimant would lose their allowance or be required to get a job.
Shadow work and pensions secretary 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.”