SCORES of East Durham cancer patients are facing delays of at least six months in receiving disability benefits, according to a report.
Easington MP Grahame Morris says despite the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) claiming the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a much simpler system than its predecessor Disability Living Allowance (DLA), it is actually leaving cancer sufferers without money for an unacceptable period at a time when they need it most.
Stephen Guy, regional development manager for Macmillan Cancer Support, says shockingly, some of the 4,500 people affected nationally are even dying before they are paid the benefit.
Mr Morris said around half a dozen affected constituents had contacted him about the problem, but he thinks this is “the tip of the iceberg”, with others suffering in silence.
But the DWP say over 10,000 people have already received the benefit and that there is a 10-day target.
Mr Morris attended the launch of Macmillan’s new PIP research report, Waiting to Benefit, at the Houses of Parliament.
Research reveals that a quarter of the 4,500 affected have started their claim but are currently stuck in the system as they wait at least six months for the initial assessment.
These delays are in addition to the lengthy three-month wait cancer patients are forced to endure before they are even eligible to apply for PIP.
Under DLA, the average decision time was 11 weeks.
The report revealed the detrimental impact these benefit delays are having on cancer patients.
Over half found their finances took a hit, two fifths were unable to adequately heat their homes and a third felt the delays resulted in mental health problems.
Mr Guy said the delays were “staggering” and added that he attended a fuel poverty conference in Murton on June 24 that revealed delays in the system mean some cancer patients can’t afford to put the heating on.
They are therefore having to forfeit their wish of dying at home and having to spend their final days in hospital.
“Some of the survey’s respondents are not even surviving long enough to see any outcome of their claim, which is extremely worrying,” said Mr Guy.
“People are dealing with the consequence of this decision yet worrying how they are going to cope due to their illnesses.”
Mr Morris said he intends to raise the issue with the Minister for Disabled People until the matter is resolved and has also written to DWP secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
A DWP spokesman said: “Those people who have got terminal illness are receiving the money.
“Over 10,000 have already received it.
The minister made it clear he wants to make sure those people get it within 10 days.”
For financial support see www.macmillan.org.uk/financialsupport or call 0808 8080000 free.