Clause 51 — Period of entitlement to contributory allowance

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 1:00 pm on 1st February 2012.

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 1:00 pm, 1st February 2012

I answered the Minister’s question. What his figures show is that only 6% of those who go on to ESA—no doubt many of them will have been on statutory sick pay before that—are in a position to come off the benefit within one year. That is not a reasonable chance to get back to work, as I think the Minister will recognise if he reflects on the matter.

As the Minister said, Lords amendment 18 specifically addresses cancer. I do not think that anyone in this House will be surprised to learn that, for many cancer patients, 12 months is not long enough to become well enough to get back into work. At 12 months, many people are still experiencing debilitating physical and psychological effects from the cancer and from its treatment. People cannot go back to work in those circumstances, and that is why Macmillan Cancer Relief, which my right hon. Friend Ann Clwyd referred to, says that

“proposals that ESA claimants who are expected to carry out work-focused activities will only receive the benefit for one year, without being means-tested, will hit cancer patients particularly hard”.

Macmillan also says:

“Three quarters…of people with cancer placed in the ESA Work-Related Activity Group are still claiming ESA 12 months later.”