A government minister has refused to meet with an MP about her constituent suffering from breast cancer whose benefits have been cut.
The Labour MP, who used to be a minister in the Department for Work and Pensions, told The Huffington Post UK: “It’s not just the appalling way the benefits system is treating people like this at the moment, but also we used to have meetings with MPs if there were particularly hard or serious cases. If the ministers won’t do that how are they going to know what’s really going on.”
Goodman asked for a meeting about the woman, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2010 and deemed fit for work by ATOS a year later, on Monday in the House of Commons. However her request was refused.
“He said no, we don’t have meetings like that about individual cases, which just completely amazed me and another colleague that used to be a minister in that department. The reason they’re not having meetings is they’ve made such a hash of the benefit reforms.”
Goodman, who claims her constituent’s story is “not unique”, is concerned about her constituent, who is in remission.
“My main concern is that she’s not on the higher rate of benefit, their messing about has caused her a lot of financial problems and if you are in remission from cancer what you don’t need is a lot of stress and anxiety.”
The Bishop Auckland MP says her constituent’ successfully appealed against being found fit to work in January 2012 but was put on Job Seekers’ Allowance again by April 2012.
Her employer has held her position open but as the woman’s doctor has not signed her off as fit to work after her cancer, she cannot yet re-employ for her job.
She suffers from panic attacks, depression and has had surgery restricting her mobility.
“The government have been very insensitive in their treatment of people with cancer. The introduction of the 365 day rule – which means you get your benefits cut off after a year, irrespective of your situation – this is particularly bad for people who are or have been seriously ill,” she said.
A DWP spokesperson said Grayling had made it clear he could not get involved in an individual case, saying: “MPs who have concerns over constituents’ cases can raise them with the department.”
Read their exchange in the Commons below
Helen Goodman:My constituent was treated for breast cancer in July 2010. She was deemed fit for work by Atos before the post-op results were received. The tribunal found in her favour and awarded her employment and support allowance in January 2012. However, her ESA entitlement was stopped in April because of the introduction of the government’s 365-day rule. She was reassessed in May 2012 and found fit for work again. Her employer has held her job open but cannot re-employ her until she is deemed fit for work by her doctor. This is obviously extremely bad for her health. Will the Ministeragree to meet me about this case?Chris Grayling: It is obviously very difficult to talk about an individual case, and I am afraid that I make it a matter of policy that ministers do not become involved in individual cases. What I would say is that it is extremely important that we provide support for all cancer sufferers who can potentially return to work to do so at the earliest opportunity. That is much better for them than being stuck at home on benefits.