Cancer patients could be at risk 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 and carried out by Truth Consulting.
The survey of nearly 1,000 people living with cancer in Great Britain found that one in ten (10%) would be unable, or would struggle, to pay their rent or mortgage if they lost £30 a week.
This is the amount the Government proposes to cut from 2017 from those who are independently assessed as too ill to work, but may be capable of work at some time in the future.
The risk of being made homeless is drastically higher for those currently in receipt of ESA, of which the survey included 78 people. More than one in three (36%) say they would be unable or would struggle to pay their rent or mortgage if the benefit was cut by £30 a week. 
Latest Government figures show at least 3,200 people with cancer currently receive the ‘Work Related Activity’ element of ESA – the benefit the Government is proposing to cut by almost a third. It is a benefit of £102.15 a week received by those too ill to work, but who may be able to work at some point in the future. 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.
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.
Terry White, 62, from Nottinghamshire, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2009. He says:
“I’d worked hard as an electrician and seven years before my diagnosis had bought my dream family home. But then treatment started and my income vanished and for the first time in my life I needed the benefit system.
“Sick pay, redundancy payments and benefits just weren’t enough to cover the added expenses that come with cancer, let alone my mortgage repayments and we got behind. I had no choice but to sell the house I’d worked so hard for and to ask my two sons to find their own living arrangements. Losing my house was an added stress I didn’t need whilst facing cancer and going through gruelling chemotherapy. I can’t imagine surviving on any less money.”
Dr Fran Woodard, Executive Director of Policy and Impact at Macmillan Cancer Support says:
“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.
“Macmillan, along with a number of other health charities, has been calling on the Government to remove their proposed cuts to Employment and Support Allowance from the Welfare Reform and Work Bill since they were announced in July. They have so far refused to listen to us.
“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.”
Macmillan is calling on the Government to remove the proposed £30 a week cut to the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) from the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.