Cancer patients left homeless due to benefit cuts

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People with cancer say they fear being made homeless over proposed changes to Employment and Support Allowance.

11th January 2016 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Cancer patients could lose their homes if government cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) go ahead.

According to research commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support, of 1,000 people living with cancer, one in 10 said they would struggle or be unable to pay their rent or mortgage if they lost £30 a week.   

This is the amount the UK government is proposing to cut in 2017 from those who receive the Work Related Activity group (WRAG) element of ESA benefit – a group of people assessed as currently too ill to work, but capable of returning to work at some time in the future. 

While Macmillan’s research shows 10% of cancer patients could face homelessness if they lost £30 a week, the risk is drastically higher for those in receipt of ESA. 

Of the 78 people in the survey who received this benefit, more than one in three (36%) said they would be unable or would struggle to pay their rent or mortgage if the benefit was cut by £30 a week – almost a third of the entire benefit.  

Macmillan Cancer Support is calling on the UK government to remove the proposed cut to the ESA from the welfare reform and work bill.  

Janice Preston, head of Macmillan in Scotland, said: “We know cancer has a huge financial impact and this research shows that any cuts to benefits could have devastating results. 

"It’s left a lot of emotional scars"

Cancer patients left homeless due to benefit cuts

Lynn Laing, 55, from Edinburgh, received the Work Related Activity element of ESA after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.  

She had a mastectomy and then went through chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment during which time she was signed off sick from her job as a receptionist in a doctor’s surgery. 

“It was horrendous,” says the mother-of-one. “I couldn’t work. It was the tiredness - I was physically exhausted. I couldn’t get my head off the pillow. The chemotherapy knocked me for six and I just wanted to sleep all day. 

"Then I was in and out of hospital for six months afterwards with various infections.” 

Even with sick pay and then ESA, Lynn and her husband Charles, who was in temporary employment, got into arrears with their mortgage and council tax payments. 

“The solicitors were going to put us out of the house,” says Lynn. “I got some money from Macmillan which I used to pay the mortgage and keep the wolves from the door. 

“If they cut the ESA, that would just be absolutely horrendous. I would hate to have had that done to me. Without it, we would probably have been homeless.  

“I’m back working 30 hours a week trying to pay everything back. I’m not fully back to normal but I’m getting there. It’s left a lot of emotional scars and a lot of psychological problems.” 

“We hope the Westminster government will rethink its proposals to make cuts to ESA.

“Anyone with cancer who has been affected by financial problems should get in touch with our benefits advice services so we can make sure they are getting all the support they are entitled to.” 

Around 5,000 people with cancer currently receive the WRAG element of ESA which entitles them to £102.15 a week.    

Macmillan says this is a benefit that many people with cancer will be in receipt of at some point during their lives, so cuts will affect many more than the 5,000.  

Existing Macmillan research shows that living with cancer can be extremely expensive and many people already face financial strain after their diagnosis. Most will incur extra costs, such as transport and heating, as a result of treatment at the same time as they are left unable to work.