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'Fit for work' tests unfair on terminally ill cancer patients,

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Tests designed to assess whether people are ‘fit for work’ are being wrongfully carried out on seriously ill cancer patients, according to charities.

Macmillan Cancer Support and Citizens Advice have said that people who are receiving treatment for cancer or who are terminally ill are being threatened with benefit cuts if they do not go to interviews.

Those seeking employment and support allowance (ESA), which replaced incapacity benefit and income support in October 2008, have to be interviewed in an attempt to get them back into some kind of work.

However, cancer sufferers undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy or who are terminally ill should be automatically exempt.

Macmillan and Citizens Advice criticised the ESA process, saying it was “failing seriously ill and disabled people”. Since May this year, Macmillan’s benefits helpline has received more than 600 calls on the issue.

In a joint report, evidence is presented of cancer patients with months to live being questioned and told they had to undergo medical examinations. Others who should automatically get the ESA benefit were refused it.

Mike Hobday, head of campaigns at Macmillan, said: “The safeguards to protect cancer patients clearly aren’t working, and the ESA system is riddled with problems.”

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