House of Lords welfare cuts challenge

Georgie Gillard/PA

A government plan to tighten the rules on welfare payments to cancer patients will be challenged by peers from the House of Lords today, according to a report in the Guardian.

The issue is one of several amendments to the welfare reform bill to be considered by peers this week, amid unease about the Government's proposed changes.

Lord Patel, the crossbencher and former president of the Royal College of Obstetricians, has won the support of the Labour party for his amendment to the bill aimed at watering down the government's proposal to change welfare payments.

It is reported that the vote is likely to attract the widest support in the Lords today - the third day of the welfare reform bill pilot by the welfare reform minister, Lord Freud.

The bill centres on the simplification of tax credits and benefits into a single universal payment.

Cancer patients

The Macmillan cancer charity has estimated that as many as 7,000 patients could lose £94 a week in sickness benefit as a result of changes, which would see the time anyone can receive contributory Employment Support Allowance (ESA) without being means-tested to 12 months, when they have been out of work due to illness or disability.

Labour is supporting Patel's amendment to a clause in the bill that will increase the eligibility period for contributory ESA to two years. Labour also will support an amendment to ensure that those who are disabled at a young age and have accrued no national insurance contributions are able to claim ESA.

Government sources have defended the bill and said that the support for cancer patients has been improved and no final decision has been made.

According to the Guardian, a source in the Department for Work and Pensions said: "Everyone who has cancer will get the support they need. If they are in the support group, they will receive unconditional support, with no time limit.

"Our proposals would allow everyone with cancer to make their own choice about the kind of support they need: unconditional financial support, or support with getting back into work. It is important our policy reflects that employment can be beneficial to someone's recovery and getting their life back together."
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