Blood cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with around 250,000 people living with the disease. For those people and their families, I believe we must do all we can to ensure the right treatment and support is on offer.
Blood Cancer UK has raised concerns about financial protection for people in the UK with blood cancer who are unable to return to work. The charity estimates around 9,000 people may be in this category, due to being advised by clinicians to continue shielding or where their employer cannot create a COVID-free workplace and working from home is not possible.
Shielding for clinically extremely vulnerable people in England, including people with blood cancer, has been paused since 1 August and will remain so unless transmission of coronavirus in the community starts to rise significantly. From this date, the UK Government advised people who were previously shielding that they could go to work, provided the workplace is COVID-secure, but should carry on working from home if possible.
I am concerned that where an employer cannot make the workplace COVID-secure, individuals may feel forced to put their health at risk just to make ends meet.
This concern has been raised with the Government on a number of occasions, including the specific case of people with blood cancer, for example, in this written question:
The Government’s response is that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will continue until October. Ministers have specifically said that people with blood cancer, who have been shielding and cannot work from home, can be furloughed from 1 July, if they were previously furloughed for at least three consecutive weeks between 1 March 2020 and 30 June.
Also, although ministers have stated that, whilst shielding is paused, individuals will no longer be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) on the basis of being clinically extremely vulnerable, they will still be eligible for SSP if they have a medical note stating that they are required to continue shielding.
These two measures are welcome, however, the CJRS is still due to end in October. My Opposition colleagues and I will continue to scrutinise the Government’s response to the coronavirus crisis and push for continued support for people with blood cancer. This includes supporting an extension of the CJRS for the people and businesses that still need it.