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Work Capability Test (Cancer)

Volume 547: debated on Monday 25 June 2012

3. What his policy is on the application of the work capability test to people with cancer; and if he will make a statement. (113180)

We are committed to supporting people who are diagnosed with cancer in the most sensitive, fair and appropriate way. We are currently analysing responses from our informal consultation on the effects of cancer treatment and will publish a consultation response later in the summer. However, we have already put in place changes that have increased the range of cancer patients who receive ongoing unconditional support.

My constituent was treated for breast cancer in July 2010. She was deemed fit for work by Atos before the post-op results were received. The tribunal found in her favour and awarded her employment and support allowance in January 2012. However, her ESA entitlement was stopped in April because of the introduction of the Government’s 365 day rule. She was reassessed in May 2012 and found fit for work again. Her employer has held her job open but cannot re-employ her until she is deemed fit for work by her doctor. This is obviously extremely bad for her health. Will the Minister agree to meet me about this case?

It is obviously very difficult to talk about an individual case, and I am afraid that I make it a matter of policy that Ministers do not become involved in individual cases. What I would say is that it is extremely important that we provide support for all cancer sufferers who can potentially return to work to do so at the earliest opportunity. That is much better for them than being stuck at home on benefits.

As a result of the Government’s review, will the Minister confirm that there is now much better understanding of cancer treatments, and that many people undergoing oral chemotherapy, for example, will now be placed automatically in a support group, which did not happen previously?

It is absolutely our intention to include for the first time people going through oral chemotherapy in the support group. The actual detail will be resolved in the review that is being carried out at the moment. We shall publish the outcome later in the summer. I stress again that this Government have broadened the range of cancer patients in the support group who receive long-term unconditional support until they are potentially able to make a return to work.