Campaigners say people who shielded were being forced to choose between their health and income. They want action to fix a “gaping hole” in the safety net for workers with highrisk conditions such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.
Gemma Peters, of Blood Cancer UK, said: “Withholding this financial support may save money, but it will also almost certainly result in the unnecessary deaths of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. It is unacceptable to expect people with blood cancer to work in restaurants and shops as you are telling customers with blood cancer to stay away.”
More than 5,500 people have signed a petition.
MS Society’s Phillip Anderson said: “The Chancellor must acknowledge there is a gaping hole in his safety net for workers.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said it has guidance for all the extremely vulnerable.
The petition is at bloodcancer.org.uk/shielders
How vulnerable struggle
Jude Curran was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma eight years ago.
In Birmingham and under Tier 2, she cannot work as a receptionist from home.
The 62-year-old said: “I can’t describe the fear I feel coming to work.
“My company has installed a screen and everything they can to protect everyone but I am still so scared I struggle to sleep.”
Graham Ellis, 70, of East Sussex, has chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and loves his job in childcare.
He said: “I really wanted to return to work in August [but] it is impossible to be socially distanced. I was put on Statutory Sick Pay and I had to cut my purse strings and survive on my savings.”
Comment by Gemma Peters
When the Government paused the shielding programme in the summer, Matt Hancock promised to keep it under review and said “nothing matters more than keeping people safe”.
For people with blood cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma, those words now ring hollow.
With the infection rate rising ominously, the Government has issued new guidance for the “clinically extremely vulnerable” (and blood cancer increases your virus risk more than almost any other health condition).
But it fails to offer financial support to people with blood cancer who cannot work from home and is forcing them to choose between their finances and their health.
The Government may be content to throw workers with blood cancer to the wolves but I’m not.
That’s why I’ve signed Blood Cancer UK’s petition for financial support for people with blood cancer who can’t work from home.
On behalf of everyone with blood cancer, I’d be really grateful if you would sign it, too.
Gemma Peters is Chief Executive of Blood Cancer UK