Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Cancer patients 'cut back on food'

The Government's Welfare Reform Bill could have serious effects on cancer patients, a charity has warned

Cancer patients are forced to cut back on buying food and other everyday essentials as a result of their disease, a charity has warned.

One in six patients is hit due to increasing costs and lost income, Macmillan Cancer Support said.

A survey also found some patients are skipping meals to help save money while others are scared of losing their home. The YouGov poll of 1,495 patients said 70% are hit financially by the disease.

Macmillan criticised the Government for going ahead with its Welfare Reform Bill and said almost 7,000 cancer patients could lose up to £94 a week if the changes are implemented. Under the plans, many cancer patients will only receive Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for one year.

Stephen Townend, 56, from London, who was diagnosed with renal cancer and had to have a kidney removed, is worried about how he and is wife will cope after he loses the ESA.

He said: "I can't believe the Government is planning to take away all my ESA after just 12 months. I'm still in a lot of pain, I need a stick to walk and get awful pins and needles down my legs.

"Without my ESA my wife and I would find it really difficult to get by. We have used up virtually all our savings already. I've worked all my life and paid into the system but this doesn't seem to mean anything."

The charity urged the Government to amend the Bill so that patients eligible for ESA receive it for as long as they need, rather than a fixed period.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Recovering cancer patients who are assessed as still needing unconditional Government support will be placed in the support group of ESA and will see no change to their benefit entitlement after 12 months. Nor will there be any change for those on income-related ESA.

"The Government is committed to protecting those who need help the most and has asked Professor Harrington and Macmillan to look at whether we can improve the support we give to cancer patients. We have already made changes to Employment and Support Allowance so that people in between courses of certain types of chemotherapy, as well as those receiving it, automatically receive unconditional support."

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