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week’s live webchat, our Welfare Rights Advisers, Jayne Mead and Peter McLaughlin, answered questions on
Employment and Support Allowance.
We know that being unable
to work can cause serious financial worries for people living with cancer.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is benefit which can be a lifeline for
some people in this position.
From April 2012,
contribution-based ESA has been time-limited to one year for anyone in the
work-related activity group. This group is for those who the Department of Work
and Pensions considers will be fit to return to work in future, and are capable
of taking steps towards returning to work immediately. However, the one year
limit is causing a lot of problems for people living with cancer.
Here are the
questions and answers from the chat. To speak to an adviser like Jayne or
Peter, call our free Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 0000 (Mon-Fri,
got incurable-but-treatable peritoneal cancer, and the way things are going I
don't know if I'll ever be able to work again. I'm presently (nominally) still
employed, and receiving Employment and Support Allowance. That comes in at
something under £400 a month. I've got savings, so I'm not entitled to another
benefit, whose name I have forgotten, and I don't, technically, pay rent - I
pay money into a joint household account instead - so no housing benefit either.
I do get free prescriptions, which is something. Is there anything else I could
It will all depend on how much savings you
have. The only non-means-tested benefit
is Disability Living Allowance, if you have any care or mobility needs as a
result of your illness. I do feel you
would benefit from seeking advice from one or our team here on the Welfare
Rights Team so we can do a complete benefit check for you. Please call us on 0808 808 0000.
you, but it's too complicated to talk about on the phone, as I suffer from breathlessness,
don't like using the phone in the first place, and (due to chemo spongebrain)
wouldn't remember the answers!
There are some places where you can get
face-to-face advice instead. Macmillan offer advice in centres based in
hospitals, have advisors in the community (depending on your area) and have
advisors at CAB locations. To search for your nearest service, enter your
postcode on our Find
a Macmillan benefits adviser page.
being diagnosed with breast cancer, I’ve so far had a mastectomy and am waiting
for a second operation in August.
Financially, my husband and I are just about managing. I used to earn £80.00 a week. I have given my
manager a start date of mid-September for returning to work, in spite of the
fact I will be on chemo. At present I
get £85.00 a week stat sick pay, my company pay nothing towards my sick time
off. Would I be eligible for ESA? I have
give a date for returning to work.
You can't claim ESA until Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
has ended, so it will depend when you started to receive SSP. SSP runs for 28
weeks. When it’s due to run out, you should get a form called a SSP1 from your
employer. If you need any more help, feel free to ring us and we’ll be happy to
go through this in more detail.
need new glasses but - obviously - can't afford them. Any NHS help available
NHS costs are means tested so that will depend on your
savings and income.
was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer last March (2011) and have been living on my
redundancy which has just about run out. I see the consultant every six weeks
so not able to work. I am not signing on
or claiming anything - would I be entitled to any benefits?
The benefits you’re entitled to will depend on a
number of things. Were you employed before March 2011, or self employed, and
what was your income? How old are you?
Do you have a husband or partner that works, and savings above £6,000.
If you don't want to divulge that info on here you can call us on 0808 808 0000.
GP gave me a note for six months, but next week I'm to have a medical organised
by the ESA. I feel I am being pressured into returning to work before I am
ready - I'm bowel incontinent at the moment and would like to try and get that
sorted. Can they force my return to work?
I’m sorry to hear you’re under pressure. The
medical assessment has the power to find you fit for work, but, if you are
incontinent, this is a condition which enables you to be put in the support
group depending on the severity of it. Is this the first ESA medical you are
it's the first medical. I'm currently waiting to see a colorectal nurse but my
oncologist has said I may have to think about a stoma.
Take as much evidence as you can in to support your
condition. At the Support Line, we have the descriptors, which are what they
use to assess each area. You need to get 15 points to pass the medical, and
then a decision is made on which support group to put you in. If you call us on
0808 808 0000 we can send you those descriptors and advise you more on what to
expect on the day. In the meantime, you
might find it helpful to read this information
on Work Capability Assessment on direct.gov.uk.
feel I should not have to suffer the loss of dignity that would come by soiling
myself in front of colleagues in the workplace, when all my options have not
I agree you shouldn't have to go through that and
the WCA can be very impersonal. We'll help you through it though and support
you if you call.
have applied for ESA and Housing/Council Tax Benefit. Any idea how long it will be before this will
When did you apply? It should take 4-6 weeks but
that depends on whether they need more information.
applied about two weeks ago - should I ring them and find out where I am up to?
Yes, it won’t do any harm and at least they can
confirm they have received your application and how much longer you will need
to wait. Sometimes it can take up to 6
weeks but they are often processed within 2 -3 weeks.
the moment I have no money coming in at all.
I have had the Macmillan Grant but that has already gone on my rent so I
have a real problem. Is there any
emergency help available?
You can apply for a crisis loan but this is
repayable - when you ring to enquire about your ESA, ask them to put you
through to the crisis loan team. If you
need any further benefit advice please ring us 0808 808 0000.
am still struggling even though I am working again - I find it difficult to
meet living expenses. It’s been two years, nearly, now since the diagnosis and
treatment, and I’ve had no help from the government. I have filled out copious
forms, but always the answer is not entitled. I’ve paid in all my working life
and never got anything out from the system. I live a frugal life, but even that
I’m sorry that this has happened to you. To advise
you, I would need lots more information about your household income, etc, so
please ring our helpline for advice on 0808 808 0000.
does time limiting of ESA mean?
From April of this year, people receiving
contributory ESA for 365 days and not in the support group had their benefit
stopped and in a lot of cases have lost around £99 a week (this year’s rate). In
many cases they are still unwell and unable to return to work. Read more about time limiting of ESA.
If this has happened to anyone, there are options
but it's a very complex area and I recommend anyone with this issue calls us on
the Welfare Rights Team.
nearing the end of my illness, now but feel I have had a raw deal with the
system. I have gone through all the treatment and its side effects and I've
received the bare minimum in the way of help. I was refused DLA because my now
partner moved in with me to help me through it, but I still had all my bills to
I'm pleased you are coming to the end of the
illness but sorry to hear you feel that way about 'the system'. I agree it can
be very impersonal and understand the difficulties patients go through with
this benefit. If you need our support, we'll do that for you, just call us on
0808 808 000.
DLA is a different benefit to ESA, but we can also
discuss that with you if you call us.
have to return to work, anyway, as I can no longer afford the lifestyle of a
There may be other benefits we can advise you about
if you call. Our online guide to Work
and Cancer may also be helpful to you.
you have an email address we can write to? I have a friend who doesn't have the
energy to speak on the phone - she would rather converse via email.
You can email us by filling out our online
contact form. However, the issue with benefits is that we require so
many details that it's not normally possible to conduct an assessment over
Your friend can send an email and initially we can
respond by email, but it would be better for us to eventually talk by phone -
just because of the information and details we need to do an assessment for
You could find out if your friend is happy for you
to give us a call on her behalf. Or she can always seek advice locally through the
Citizens Advice Bureau or use her postcode to search
for a Macmillan benefits adviser in her area.
If you have any questions about our organisation our Macmillan team would love to hear from you
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2010
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