How low can this coalition came come by attacking the most vulnerable in soceity, its no wonder that this coalition govt is the most unpopular govt in the UK. Who will the coalition next target people with mental health problems and most of all people on low incomes.
The coalition’s radical plans to reform the benefits system has come under attack from an unprecedented alliance of 30 cancer charities, who warn that the welfare reform bill will leave tens of thousands of people with cancer worse off and risks “pushing some into poverty”.
The charities have written to Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, urging him to rethink plans in the bill that will mean a “significant number of people with cancer will be left without vital financial support at a time when they need it the most”. The bill is due to receive its second reading in the Commons on Wednesday.
The warning came as Labour backbenchers put pressure on Ed Miliband to vote against the entire bill, a move the leadership fears would send a signal that the party is opposed to welfare reform.
There are signs that support for the bill’s principles is beginning to fray due to opposition to specific elements of it.
The shadow work and welfare secretary, Liam Byrne, endured a difficult meeting of the parliamentary Labour party on Monday night, with some MPs demanding outright opposition.
The shadow cabinet agreed that the party should table a highly critical amendment, and then abstain on second reading, a tactic that could lead to rank-and-file Labour MPs voting against it in one of the first rebellions of Miliband’s leadership.
Byrne claimed that David Cameron was losing his grip on the bill’s details. The bill, said Byrne, “offers some good ideas, but with a frightening leap in the dark for millions of parents, savers and self-employed who may lose thousands of pounds a year for childcare and wage top-ups, and a game of Russian roulette for some of the most vulnerable”.
The letter from the 30 cancer charities, seen by the Guardian, warns that patients and the parents of children with cancer are deeply worried by the reforms. It condemns plans in the bill to withdraw employment support allowance (ESA) from many cancer patients after a year.
The letter says: “The majority of people with cancer who are out of work want to return to work. We believe that this proposal, rather than creating an incentive to work, will lead to many cancer patients losing their ESA simply because they have not recovered quickly enough.”
It adds: “For many cancer patients it takes longer than a year to return to work. This is evident from your department’s own statistics, which show that 75% of cancer patients who could be affected by this policy still need ESA after one year.”
It also warns people with cancer will have to wait six months to claim the new personal independence payment, which will replace disability living allowance, saying: “We know that even the existing three-month wait for DLA is extremely problematic for people with cancer.”
The charities say that while patients receiving conventional chemotherapy will be eligible for the new support group benefit, which excludes them from having to seek work, those having oral chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment will have to undergo medical assessment, and may be required to participate in work-related activities, such as practice job interviews, as a condition of receiving their benefit.
The letter points out: “Medical advances mean that oral chemotherapies are used increasingly to treat more aggressive forms of cancer. Sometimes cancer patients can choose to take the same chemotherapy drug either orally or non-orally. Currently, their choice will affect the way they are treated in the benefit system.”
The ESA replaces a range of incapacity benefits. All fresh claimants now undergo a work capability assessment, and 1.5 million existing recipients will be reassessed using the new system from this month. The welfare reform bill introduces a one-year time limit on those people claiming ESA in the “work-related activity group”, who are expected to move into work.
Byrne has identified five key problems with the bill that he claims the government is failing to address:
• A lack of clarity on the system that will replace childcare support, and if it will be incorporated into universal credit. Under some models, families will lose out.
• The penalising of families with £16,000 or more in savings, who will be barred from the universal credit. Around 400,000 families with children currently receiving tax credits will lose their entire eligibility for financial support under the universal credit, Byrne claims.
• Disincentives for those who wish to start a business, with no clarity as to whether the self-employed will be eligible for universal credit.
• Risking a split with Lib Dem MPs by hitting people who live in residential care homes by pressing ahead with the removal of the mobility component of DLA.
• Continued uncertainty over who controls how council tax benefit will be incorporated in the universal credit.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We are changing the welfare system because in its current state it’s not working. In all our changes we are protecting those who need the most help. On ESA we have accepted all the recommendations by Professor [Malcolm] Harrington [who reviewed the ESA system], including greater provision for people who are going through chemotherapy. Cancer sufferers who are terminally ill claiming DLA will be exempt from waiting six months before they can make a claim.”