I wanted to let you all know about some big developments in our ‘put the fair into welfare’ campaign in the last couple of weeks.

At the end of November the government published its long awaited response to Professor Malcolm Harrington’s review of the Work Capability Assessment. The review - which we made a submission to as part of our campaign - looked at the way in which the benefits claims of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy are assessed.

In our submission to the review we argued that all cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy as well certain groups of radiotherapy patients should get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) automatically – without having to face the stress and anxiety of a medical assessment.

Sadly, the government doesn’t agree. Ministers feel that each claim should be considered on a case by case basis and that no-one should receive ESA automatically. 

Needless to say we’re incredibly disappointed by the government’s response. It flies in the face of all the evidence provided to us by patients and professionals. If you’re undergoing or recovering from chemotherapy the last thing you want to be worrying about is whether or not you’re going to get the financial support you need. As we tried to explain to the government patients find any kind of assessment stressful, no matter how ‘light touch’ or sensitively handled it is. Our press statement – reported today on the front page of the The Guardian - reflects this concern. 

Fortunately, we still have a chance to change the government’s mind – but we need your help. A consultation on the government’s proposals is going to begin in the next few weeks. If we’re to persuade Ministers to think again we need direct evidence from cancer patients about what it’s like to go through an ESA assessment. So if you’ve got a story that you think might help us, then please do get in touch by emailing campaigns@macmillan.org.uk  

You can also help us by signing our welfare reform petition and getting your friends and family to do the same. Almost 10,000 people have signed it to date, which is a great start, but we still want a lot more support. The more people who support us, the stronger our case to Ministers will be!