15 Oct 2015

Cancer patients' work requirements discussed

1:17 pm on 15 October 2015

The Social Development Minister has met with the Cancer Society to discuss patients being put on Jobseeker benefits.

Anne Tolley this morning on relationships Aotearoa closing.

Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

The Cancer Society said hundreds of people with cancer had to keep proving they could not work as a result of the sickness benefit being axed two years ago.

It was replaced by a Jobseeker benefit, which has work obligations - but people can get exemptions if they are sick.

Anne Tolley met with the Cancer Society yesterday and said it was a very constructive meeting.

Ms Tolley said she was looking into the matters raised, and another meeting would be held tomorrow between Work and Income and the Cancer Society.

Jobseekers can be made exempt from work obligations if they are sick, and figures from the end of June showed 806 beneficiaries with cancer had a work exemption.

In total, 118,072 people received Jobseeker Support, and 54,817 had reduced work obligations due to sickness or disability.

But The Cancer Society said that while cancer patients did not have to attend job seminars and interviews, it was still too hard to get and maintain financial assistance.

Ms Tolley yesterday acknowledged that having to provide monthly medical certificates in the early stages of cancer was difficult.

But she said if cancer patients were given special consideration, other people would want those considerations as well.

"Where you draw the line is always the issue," she said.

"You start creating a whole lot of layers and there would be, I'm sure, other groups of people that would come forward and say, 'we need special consideration too'.

But the Green Party yesterday said the government can, and should, make cancer sufferers eligible for a Supported Living Payment.