BENEFITS EXPERT: How will cancer treatment affect my health assessment?

Q. I am claiming Contribution Based ESA and understand I will require a medical assessment after 13 weeks. I have heard of people failing these and I am concerned I may fail my medical.

I am currently receiving treatment for cancer and this includes ongoing chemotherapy. Will this make any difference when it comes to my assessment?

A. Prior to attending any medical assessment you will be sent an ESA 50 form by the DWP and this asks about difficulties you may have due to your health conditions. There is also a section that specifically asks if you are undergoing treatment for cancer including chemo or radiotherapy along with a section that can be completed by your GP, oncologist or specialist nurse. Generally speaking if you are undergoing treatment for cancer then you are normally exempt from the Work Capability Assessment process, you will not normally be required to attend an examination and the DWP will normally accept you have limited capability for work and your ESA will continue. In this situation you will also not have any additional requirements in order to continue to receive ESA and will be automatically placed in the Support Group.

These particular exemptions will only apply during the period you are getting chemotherapy as well as any additional recovery treatment or therapy after your chemotherapy ends. This will obviously vary from person to person and normally be based on information provided by your GP and/or other person involved in your treatment. Thereafter your entitlement to ESA will be dealt with as normal and if you wish to continue receiving the benefit you will be assessed under the normal assessment rules and undergo a Work Capability Assessment.

In passing it is worth pointing out that as well as treatment for cancer there are also a number of other conditions and circumstances in which you will not be required to undergo the usual process for ESA medical assessments so if you do receive a form always seek specialist advice to see if you fall within one of these categories.

Claimants for Universal Credit on the grounds of incapacity for work also have similar rules protecting them however you must inform your work coach straight away if theses rules apply so you are not required to carry out limited job seeking during the initial 13 week assessment period.