Benefit rule change to support cancer sufferers
Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland, has welcomed a change to the benefit rules which will see more cancer sufferers receive unconditional financial support.
New proposals, published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Great Britain, will mean that hundreds more people in Northern Ireland, and across the UK, who are awaiting, receiving, or recovering from any form of chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer will be placed in the Support Group for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Here they will get the financial support they need while unable to work.
Minister McCausland said: “This is a very welcome step and it is one that I have been calling for, for some time. Back in January of this year I made a plea to the people of Northern Ireland to respond to a consultation, which my Department then shared with DWP, to ensure that people with cancer receive all the financial support they need.
“I also welcomed the fact that the Westminster Government had recognised the serious issues faced by people with cancer, and emphasised how important it was that Northern Ireland had its say on any new proposals.
“I am pleased to see that our efforts have been well received, that the DWP has listened to our concerns, and that people suffering from cancer will now be properly supported by our benefit system.”
The simpler process will mean that all types of cancer treatment are seen as having the potential to be equally as debilitating, rather than the current rules which distinguish between different forms of treatment.
This means more people should qualify for the ESA Support Group, where before they may have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) and expected to make efforts to return to work.
Other changes being made to support cancer sufferers include: Removing the condition that treatment must be continuous for six months, acceptance that it is the impact of the treatment, not the duration, which should be considered and, the development of a new ‘light touch’ evidence gathering process which will see claimants with cancer being directed to a dedicated part of the ESA50 form, negating the requirement to complete the whole questionnaire.
Nelson McCausland added: “I have no doubt that people who can work should work, but similarly, I believe that those who are unable to work, or who are unable to carry out work-related activity because of their ill-health should not be forced to do so; nor should they be in fear of being forced to do so.
“These proposals will make a difficult time a little easier for those who are having treatment for cancer.”
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