Terminal patients forced to prove they are ill

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By Cara Sulieman

SCOTS cancer sufferers are being quizzed over their benefits – even if they’ve only been given months to live.

Cancer charities have branded the practice as “cruel and unacceptable” as terminal patients are called in to the job centre for gruelling interviews, or face having their money slashed.

Terminally ill patients and those having chemotherapy are supposed to be exempt from the interviews, but sufferers are still getting letters demanding they attend.

Allan Cowie, Macmillan’s general manager for Scotland said it was a worryingly common occurrence.

He said: “This is happening all over the country on a regular basis.

“It’s cruel and unacceptable. The system needs urgently reformed.

“Some Jobcentre Plus staff don’t understand the rules nor do they understand what a cancer diagnosis means for people physically and emotionally.”

The Government introduced the Employment and Support Allowance to replace Incapacity Benefit two years ago.

Claimants have to undergo “fit-for-work” interviews and work capability assessments overseen by doctor or nurse as part of the focus on getting people back to work.

But seriously ill cancer patients meant to be exempt.

Despite this, cancer patients across the country are finding letters dropping on their doormats demanding they attend.

Willie Durren, 58, from Dunfermline had been diagnosed with terminal head and neck cancer.

He received a letter from the Jobcentre asking that he attend an interview when he was receiving regular blood transfusions and being fed through tube in neck.

Willie has since been told he had less than a year to live.

But when he contacted the Jobcentre, he was told the interview was compulsory.

His wife Linda said: “He was exhausted and in a lot of pain but all they would do was delay the interview.

“Willie worked hard all his life and provided for the family and the letter left him feeling inadequate and humiliated.

“Nobody with such a serious illness should have to go through that.”

Luckily, the couple contacted Gill Simpson, a Macmillan welfare benefits adviser, who complained on their behalf and Willie has had no further demands.

A spokesman for Department of Work and Pensions said: “Where we can indentify that an individual meets the criteria for the highest level of Employment and Support Allowance, including the terminally ill or people undergoing certain types of treatment, they don’t have to undergo a face-to-face assessment.”

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