The Government is writing to some terminally ill people to tell them their benefit will be ended in six months.
20 September 2011
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) began writing to people affected this week  to say that, under Welfare Reform Bill plans, ‘contributory-Employment and Support Allowance’ (c-ESA ) will be time-limited to one year from April 2012. Terminally ill people who have accessed c-ESA since April 2011 may lose all out of work help in just six months as a result .
Neil Coyle, Disability Alliance Director of Policy, says:
‘The impact of cutting support will be devastating for people already told they only have a limited time left to live. Many will have worked for years and will feel they deserve a little support in return till they pass away. The Government has time to change plans before terminally ill people and their families have this avoidable and quite nasty cut imposed.’
DWP believe 700,000 people will be affected by 2015/16 from ending support after one year . Some terminally ill people may qualify for alternative help but over 400,000 people must lose all support if the Government’s targeted cut of £2 billion is to be met .
Cancer charities estimate 7,000 cancer patients could lose help  and when people with other conditions are included the total number of people with terminal conditions affected will be higher.
Despite terminally ill people beginning to receive the worrying letter from DWP, the House of Lords has not even scrutinised Government plans yet. The Welfare Reform Bill enters Lords committee sessions in two weeks  and the time-limiting could be amended or removed. The national Liberal Democrat conference voted against time-limiting support just three days ago . But the letters are being sent now at a cost of £2.7 million – including letters to people unaffected by the change  but who will experience considerable anxiety.
Neil Coyle adds:
‘The Government approach will mean some terminally ill people face costly, avoidable reassessments and massive anxiety. Others will lose financial help at a very tough time. It is not uncommon to be diagnosed with a fatal illness but have more than a year to live. But the Government will end benefits support for people well before they pass away, even for people who have worked all their lives. This is unacceptable, unfair and offensive to ordinary sensitivities.’
Disability Alliance believes that anyone with a terminal illness should be entitled to Support Group protection and should not face time-limited support/benefits. The Government could amend the Bill to this effect and avoid people close to death experiencing additional financial hardship and isolation.
 DirectGov has the following information online: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Nl1/Newsroom/DG_199210
 Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has two groups: the Support Group for people not obliged to undertake work; and the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG), for people who must undertake some work-related activity. People receiving ESA WRAG who have made National Insurance contributions previously are the people targeted to lose help from April 2012 (contributions-based ESA WRAG).
 Terminally ill people with a prognosis of less than six months to live will be protected as they can qualify for ESA Support Group. People with a prognosis of longer than six month may be in the ESA WRAG and are likely to receive the DWP letter.
 See: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/esa-time-limit-wr2011-ia.pdf (p7).
 £2 billion representing roughly £90 per person, per week for 52 weeks a year for 400,000 people.
 See: www.macmillan.org.uk/Aboutus/News/Latest_News/Cancerpatientstoloseupto94aweek.aspx
 On 4th October; see: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/welfarereform.html
 On 17th September; see: http://opinion.publicfinance.co.uk/2011/09/lib-dems-conference-taking-a-stand-on-welfare/
 The DWP IT system is sending letters to people apparently receiving contributions-based ESA and income-based ESA. Only contributions-based ESA WRAG is being time-limited.
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