I was pleasantly surprised to receive a text from John Barrett, the former Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West, yesterday morning as I was tootling round the supermarket. He wanted to let me know that he was "happy to support your campaign on chemotherapy proposals" and that I could put his support on my blog.
I wanted to leave yesterday to Joshua's appeal, but I'm really grateful to John. I know that he will also be advocating behind the scenes on this one as well.
Just to recap the situation, at the moment, if you are receiving intravenous chemo for Cancer you are automatically exempt from all assessments to see if you're fit for work that come along with claiming Employment and Support Allowance. However, if you are receiving oral chemo or radiotherapy, you have to go through them, even though your treatment can have just as horrendous side effects. Macmillan Cancer Support and others presented evidence to the Government to ask for all chemo patients to be exempt.
Unfortunately, the Government, while agreeing that there was a discrepancy, went the other way, and decided that all patients undergoing chemo should be assessed. This to me puts an unacceptable burden on people. Having hardcore poisons circulating in your system in near fatal quantities is more than enough for any one person to deal with at any one time. Having to deal with filling in complex forms from ATOS is just asking too much. Of course, if you miss the deadline for filling it in, you'll end up losing your benefit which could be a nightmare to sort out - and clearly impacts the most on those without family support or another income in the household. The easiest thing would be to put everyone who files a certificate saying they are undergoing chemo for Cancer into the support group for the duration of their treatment and simply leave them alone.
Macmillan, perfectly understandably, are not happy with this. To its credit, the Government has suspended hte proposals and put them out for further consultation. What the petition George and I have set up aims to do is add weight to the case put forward by Macmillan. I don't want to put words into George's mouth, but I certainly believe it is the only humane option.
If you agree with George, John Barrett and hundreds of others, please sign here and share as widely as you can.
It's also good to see Party President Tim Farron say he's going to look into this. In response to George's article on Lib Dem Voice yesterday, he said on Twitter last night:
It would be fabulous if he could come back and tell us that under no circumstances will Cancer patients undergoing chemo be required to undergo any work capability assessments.