Supplementary memorandum submitted by
Macmillan Cancer Relief after the publication of the Welfare Reform
1.1 Macmillan Cancer Relief provides the
expert care and emotional support that makes a real difference
to people living with cancer. We offer a range of innovative cancer
services and are at the heart of improving cancer care throughout
1.2 Around a third of people newly diagnosed
with cancer each year90,000 peopleare of working
age. There are currently 37,300 people with a cancer diagnosis
claiming incapacity benefits.
Most cancer patients of working age do not want to drop out of
the labour market. Nearly 60% of patients in a survey by CancerBACUP
said they wanted to continue working.
However, cancer patients do need time off work while they are
undergoing treatment. 84% of respondents to the CancerBACUP survey
found the side effects of treatment difficult to manage in the
Following the publication of the Welfare Reform
Green Paper, Macmillan is concerned that two key areas impacting
cancer patients have still not been adequately addressed.
Cancer patients undergoing active
treatment or who are terminally ill need improved provision for
waiving and deferring compulsory work-focussed interviews.
A stronger focus on measures
to encourage employers to retain and hire sick or disabled workers
3. THE NEED
3.1 The Welfare Reform Green Paper does
not allay our concerns that cancer patients who are undergoing
active treatment or who are terminally ill may be inappropriately
compelled to attend work-focussed interviews. We have asked for
statutory exemptions and deferrals but the Green Paper does not
acknowledge that existing discretionary safeguards are not working
properly and need strengthening.
3.2 Macmillan has a network of benefits
advisers who help around 10,000 cancer patients each year. Macmillan
benefits advisers are telling us that:
Terminally ill patients are
being required to attend work-focussed interviews when claiming
Patients undergoing chemotherapy
and radiotherapy are having difficulty deferring interviews.
Jobcentre Plus staff are not
always using appropriate discretion to waive and defer interviews
correctly and individual Jobcentre Plus offices are developing
their own deferment practiceseg in Northampton interviews
can be deferred for 13 weeks following intervention by a Macmillan
benefits adviser while in Stratford interviews can only be deferred
for two weeks at a time.
Some call centres refuse to
speak to Macmillan advisers who are intervening on behalf of patients.
3.3 The case studies below illustrate the
problems our advisers encounter. These situations are becoming
increasingly common and are set to continue in the absence of
any clear proposals to strengthen existing safeguards:
In September 2005, a woman on
DLA under the special rules applied to Fulham Jobcentre Plus for
a renewal of IB. She was called in for an interview. A benefits
adviser was at the woman's house while she was on the phone to
the Jobcentre Plus call centre trying to get the interview waived.
The benefits adviser spoke to the call centre and made it clear
that the woman was in no fit state to attend. The call centre
worker refused to waive the interview and the woman's husband
insisted that he would attend in her place. Once he got to the
offices and explained the situation the person dealing with him
was extremely apologetic. The patient died one month later.
In October 2005, a 44-year-old
male with leukaemia applied for IB. He told Highgate Jobcentre
Plus that he was undergoing active treatment (he was having chemotherapy)
but they insisted that he must meet with a personal adviser for
an interview. A Macmillan benefits adviser intervened on his behalf
but the interview was only deferred for two weeks. The client
was sent a letter to say that he would be contacted by telephone
on 21 November to establish a suitable date for an interview.
Since then, no one has called and attempts by the benefits adviser
to establish who is responsible for decisions about interviews
have proved fruitless.
3.4 We believe that cancer patients undergoing
treatment or with a terminal diagnosis should not be called to
attend compulsory interviews. The Government needs to improve
safeguards to prevent cancer patients or those with a terminal
illness being inappropriately required to attend interviews. We
want to see cancer patients undergoing treatment exempted in law
and were extremely disappointed that our concerns were not addressed
in the Green Paper.
4. THE NEED
4.1 Conditions are being imposed on claimants
but not on employers. People with cancer need financial support
when they cannot work and employment support when they are able
to return to work.
4.2 The onus now needs to be on employers
to develop job retention and return to work packages that help
cancer patients return to work when they are able to. We are disappointed
that there is so little emphasis in the Welfare Reform Green Paper
on job retention nor any concrete proposals for incentivising
employers to hire and retain sick and disabled employees.
Macmillan Cancer Relief
25 Department for Work and Pensions, Incapacity
Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance Quarterly Summary Statistics:
February 2005. Back
CancerBACUP, (2005), Work and cancer: How cancer affects working