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Chancellor must raise Universal Credit to help cancer patients, charities warn

- Will Kirkman

Cancer patients will be put at risk if the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, follows through on plans to cut Universal Credit, charities have warned.

In April the Government raised the standard Universal Credit allowance by £20 a week for a year. But charities including Shelter, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation are now urging Mr Sunak to make the temporary measures permanent.

Macmillan said cancer sufferers in particular needed extra support. Many have to cut their working hours or stop work entirely after a diagnosis. Extra costs incurred by cancer sufferers, such as medication and travel to hospital appointmen­ts, outweigh the support offered by Universal Credit, the charity said.

Judith Neptial, 49, from Romford in east London, was diagnosed with terminal cancer two years ago and was forced to give up her job as a psychother­apist when she became too ill. She said: “At that point I became dependent on the system. Financiall­y, if you’re used to working, it becomes very difficult. It was a huge cut in income and I had to look after my home and my daughter.” When Covid- 19 struck, Ms Neptial was too vulnerable to use public transport to travel to hospital appointmen­ts. “I had to take taxis,” she said. “The extra £20 a week helped significan­tly. If I didn’t have it, I would have to play Russian roulette with public transport. The extra £80 a month is a huge help.” Research from Macmillan found that, before the pandemic, 450,000 people living with cancer had no savings to fall back on after their diagnosis. One in nine people who have cancer goes on to claim benefits, and some 60,000 people with cancer in Britain are receiving Universal Credit. Jelena Nenadic of Macmillan said that, in her role as a benefits adviser, she had seen people hesitate to start their cancer treatment because they were worried about paying their bills. “This was true before Covid-19 and has now only got worse,” Ms Nenadic said. “Sadly, not all cancer costs can be covered by benefits, but reducing benefits income would cause huge damage.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work & Pensions said: “We understand this is an extremely challengin­g time for people with cancer and know how important support during the pandemic has been, including our boost to welfare support by £ 9.3bn and the winter support package for those on low incomes, as well as income protection schemes, mortgage holidays and support for renters.”

To donate to The Telegraph’s annual Christmas charity appeal, which supports Macmillan, Refuge, Carers UK and Cruse Bereavemen­t Care, call 0151 284 1927 or visit telegraph.ctdonate.org

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