One of my club of cancer bitches, the beautiful Andrea, is campaigning for a change to the way benefits for cancer patients are calculated and paid. I asked her to explain what the issue is. So in her own words, here it is:
After finding out that my children are not entitled to free school meals even though I am claiming ESA (Emplyment and Support Allowance), I was incensed to find out the reason why was because in my lifetime of working I have paid enough National Insurance. There are two types of ESA benefit; one is contributions based and the other income related. I qualify for the former so am entitled to much less. ‘But I don’t understand?’ I said to the lady on the phone ‘I’m claiming ESA because I am off work due to having cancer, what do you mean my children can’t have free school dinners?’ In a nutshell the ESA department doesn’t care why you are claiming, or for what reason, they just make their calculations on whether or not you have paid in enough National Insurance. Hmm but this doesn’t make sense: surely if I have paid in enough to the big pot, when I am ill and need help i.e free school dinners/child care/dentist/opticians/blue disabled parking badge etc….and all the other benefits that you would usually get how can I not qualify? It seems that that is the case. So enraged was I, and on the advice of one of my auntie’s oldest friends who is a bit of a campaigner herself, I decided to start a petition. At first it was a knee jerk reaction – I was mad as hell and something had to be done. What could I do? I know: start a petition! But what will I do with that petition? At first I wasn’t sure! Now after four days and 3,008 signatures and more being added by the hour and a lot of advice from my darling breast cancer buddies (7 Bitches) and many other friends from the Younger Breast Cancer Network I know exactly what I need to do. After tweeting my local MP on Friday and him responding, I have now emailed him outlining why I am petitioning and how the benefits system regarding cancer patients needs to change and am hoping he will agree to meet with me and help to support me in my fight to get the government to create a standard benefit available to all cancer patients which is fair. I will try to get some kind of media coverage and do whatever I can do to have mine and all the millions of other cancer patients of this countries voices heard. Since starting the petition I have heard so many heartbreaking stories from families whose lives have been turned upside down by this dreadful disease but have also been left with no money, no way to buy food, pay the rent or mortgage, going into thousands of pounds worth of credit card debts and even losing their homes. This is morally so wrong, especially for many people that have worked hard all their lives and paid their taxes, to be told ‘Sorry, NO’ when trying to claim some kind of benefit whilst battling a life threatening illness, going through rounds of chemo and radiotherapy and endless hospital visits. How is a person with a cancer diagnosis meant to get through all this treatment and get better if they have the added worry and stress of where the next meal is coming from, or how they will even get to the hospital for treatment? Something needs to be done, somebody needs to listen, something needs to change. If you agree and would like to help then please sign the petition and help me make a change!
So here is the link to Andrea’s petition:
Please help by signing.