PATIENTS receiving treatment for cancer will no longer be forced to seek work if they want to keep sickness benefits, the government has announced.
Ministers are to end a distinction which meant those getting oral forms of chemotherapy and radiotherapy could be placed in categories that required them to make efforts to return to work.
The move is part of the official response to a review of fit-to-work assessments and was welcomed by Macmillan Cancer Support, which led protests against the split.
Employment minister Mark Hoban, who announced the move in a Commons written ministerial statement, said: “Treatment for cancer is changing and we need to reflect this in the benefits system.
“We have listened to cancer charities and people suffering from cancer, and I am very pleased we can play our part in reducing the burden on people during what everyone knows is a particularly difficult time.”
It was one of several “considerable improvements” already made to the controversial work capability assessment system as a result of the Harrington Review, he said.
Professor Malcolm Harrington, a leading occupational therapist, was appointed as the independent reviewer of the work capability assessment procedure, but announced earlier this year he was leaving the role.
Macmillan director of policy Mike Hobday said the charity would maintain the pressure to ensure the proposed changes were put into effect.
“We welcome the government’s announcement that more cancer patients will avoid having to face stressful medical assessments or back-to-work interviews while experiencing the effects of gruelling treatments,” he said.
“Macmillan campaigned vigorously for greater protection for cancer patients who are too sick to work,” Mr Hobday said. “We are delighted the government has listened.”