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Welfare Reform Bill

House of Lords written question – answered on 6th June 2011.

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Photo of Lord Patel of Blackburn Lord Patel of Blackburn Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that cancer sufferers will not be adversely affected by the proposals in the Welfare Reform Bill.

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Welfare Reform Bill makes several changes to the benefits available to people with health conditions such as cancer.

In relation to Employment and Support Allowance, the Welfare Reform Bill provides for a one year time limit for those claiming contributory employment and support allowance in the Work Related Activity Group. The time limit will come into effect in 2012.

People with the most serious disabilities and health conditions, including many people with cancer, will not be subject to time limiting. People with the most severe disabilities or heath conditions are placed in the Support Group: this includes people who are terminally ill and people who are receiving certain types of chemotherapy. We have just amended legislation so that individuals awaiting or between courses of certain types of chemotherapy will also automatically be placed in the Support Group.

Income-related ESA will still be available for an indefinite period to those who qualify, irrespective of which group they are in.

We are required to commission five annual independent reviews of the work capability assessment, the process by which entitlement to employment and support allowance is determined. As part of his second independent review, Professor Harrington has asked Macmillan Cancer Support and other cancer charities to look into how the work capability assessment assesses people with cancer and to make recommendations for improvements. I look forward to receiving Macmillan and Professor Harrington's recommendations for improvements.

The Welfare Reform Bill also provides for the replacement of disability living allowance for people of working age with a new personal independence payment, a new, more transparent benefit and objective assessment of individual need. This change will be introduced in 2013. The personal independence payment will provide automatic and immediate entitlement to people who have a progressive disease such as cancer, are terminally ill, and are not expected to live for more than six months.

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