ESA claimants with cancer risk losing homes


People with cancer face the possibility of losing their homes if proposed government cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) go ahead, according to new research commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support.

The Macmillan Cancer Support survey of nearly 1,000 people living with cancer in the United Kingdom found that one in ten would be unable, or would struggle, to pay their rent or mortgage if they lost £30 a week. This is the amount the UK government proposes to cut from the Work Related Activity element of ESA from 2017 for those who are independently assessed as too ill to work, but may be capable of work at some time in the future.

This research reflects recent Turn2us research that showed almost a third (32%) of the people who come to us for financial help have a long-term illness. Our Benefits Awareness Month campaign (April 2015) found that households who had experienced one change to their circumstances (including the onset of illness) were twice as likely to be struggling financially.

Latest government figures show at least 3,200 people with cancer currently receive the ‘Work Related Activity’ element of ESA – a benefit of £102.15 a week that the government is proposing to cut by almost a third. Macmillan warns 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. The charity is calling for a halt to government plans.

Living with cancer can be extremely expensive

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. Today’s research demonstrates how reducing these vital funds even further would push people over the edge financially.

Macmillan Cancer Support comments

Dr Fran Woodard, executive director of policy and impact at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “The devastating impact that changes to Employment and Support Allowance will have on the lives of people with cancer is clear. 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.

 “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.”

Turn2us Comments

Almost three-fifths of households (58%) who had experienced a change say their outgoings significantly exceed their earnings while over a third (34%) say their debt levels had increased

Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive Turn2us said: "Already many ill people we help are finding that the challenges they face are being exacerbated by debt, isolation and a constant struggle to meet the cost of bills.

“It’s never great news to hear that people whose lives are already under severe stress have more to worry about.”

“I urge anyone in this situation to ensure they are getting the support they may be eligible for, and for the agencies that work with cancer sufferers to do all they can to help them access this support.”

Turn2us for help

If you are ill and unable to work, our website has useful information on ESA and how to claim it.

If you are struggling to make ends meet, use our Benefits Calculator to check your entitlement to benefits and our Grants Search to see if you are eligible for help from a charitable fund, based on your personal circumstances and needs. The ‘Your Situation' section on our website contains resources on benefits grants and managing money, including useful links sheets and a Find an Adviser tool to help you find national and local sources of further help.

Source: Macmillan Cancer Support press release