We are concerned about the impact the Welfare Reform Bill proposals could have on Scottish cancer patients.

Today the Westminster Government will try to press ahead with changes that would mean some cancer patients will lose vital benefits after just one year.

As representatives of the cancer community we are asking MPs not to vote for any changes that could push cancer patients and their families into poverty.

Loading article content

Cancer patients want to work. They haven't chosen to give up the safety of employment. The assertion that providing hard-earned benefits at a time of greatest need encourages a dependency by seriously ill cancer patients on benefits is simply not based on fact.

The Government's plan to cut Employment Support Allowance after one year will leave around 7000 cancer patients up to £94 worse off each week, simply because they have not recovered quickly enough. These are people who have paid into the system all their working lives and it is wrong to put them under further financial and emotional distress on top of recovering from a life-threatening illness.

In our experience of treating and supporting cancer patients, one year is not long enough for many people to recover from cancer treatment. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be highly debilitating. The ongoing and severe side-effects can leave patients struggling for years. Although there is clear evidence that one year is not long enough for patients to recover, the Government seems determined to press ahead with the changes.

We accept the benefits system is in need of reform. However, cutting help for cancer patients will only succeed in causing stress and worry to people going through an already difficult time.

We urge all Scottish MPs to show their support for cancer patients and vote against time-limiting financial support to cancer patients to just one year, at the time they need it most.

Elspeth Atkinson, director of Macmillan Cancer Support in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales;

Audrey Birt, chairman of the Scottish Cancer Coalition and director for Scotland, Breakthrough Breast Cancer;

Dr Carol MacGregor, Macmillan consultant in clinical oncology; Leslie Samuel, Macmillan consultant oncologist;

Peter Gent, manager of the North of Scotland Cancer Network;

Rosemary Twohig, clinical service manager at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre;

and signed by 29 others representing the cancer community.

As someone who is neither metropolitan nor well-heeled, I think Andrew McKie is very wrong in his column about welfare reform ("Welfare reforms will make the system fairer for all", The Herald, January 30).

The benefit cap has frequently been presented as a comparison with the incomes of working people. This is not the case. A comparative household would receive child benefit, housing benefit and council tax benefit entitlement on top of the £26,000 figure. When parents with large families lose employment, they can't be asked to get rid of their children.

The cap will apply to housing benefit in the private sector, so for those it applies to it is better to live in an area of low private-sector rents, usually areas with high unemployment. But this will further ghettoise poverty and create more stories of dependency.

While raising the tax threshold may be welcome, it would not be fair.

It would be a benefit to those who are on very low incomes, but it would provide exactly the same financial benefit to the richest workers. Millionaires would gain as much as those on the margins of the threshold.

Fairness is not a ghettoised society. Social security should protect families and children. Prejudices should be ignored.

Angus Erskine,