Shielding for the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable has ended. What is the impact on working age blood cancer patients?

End of shielding – Risk, anxiety and financial impact

The repercussions of the government’s decision to end the shielding programme for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) people are severe and multi-facetted.

Most of the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable group, such as, for example, blood cancer patients, are still at very high risk of contracting COVID-19, as early research has indicated that the vaccines may not be as efficient for these patients as for the general healthy population.

For most CEV people, catching COVID-19 could prove fatal.

This leaves CEV patients utterly devastated and anxious. Not only are they virtual prisoners in their own homes, as the outside world has stopped using masks and no longer abides by the social distancing measures, but the decision is now causing severe practical and financial issues for many who are being pressured to return to work by employers and organisations who may not understand the full risks involved.

What can the government do to prevent blood cancer patients being pressured to return to work?

One of our members (we’ll call him Daniel), who wrote to us this week on this issue, would very much like some answers. In his own words:

I am a 56-year-old unemployed blood cancer patient from Brighton registered as CEV, living with, and part time carer for, my 86-year-old father who is also vulnerable and has health issues.

Me and my father have shielded as much as possible throughout the Covid pandemic. I have been claiming Universal Credit since June 2020.

However, as government shielding has now ended, I am being pressed by the DWP to make myself available for work again immediately or lose my benefit. They have said that the only thing that can take the pressure off is to be declared unfit for work by my GP, which is difficult as I am a watch and wait patient who is currently not physically unwell with my condition. But myself and my father are still extremely vulnerable to Covid.

I am very worried about potentially returning to a workplace and mixing amongst people who no longer have to compulsorily wear a face mask or social distance.”

We urged Daniel to contact his MP, Caroline Lucas, in the first instance, who responded immediately to his call for help: “I am dismayed at what the Government is putting you and so many other people through and am raising my concerns with Ministers.

It is unfair of the Government to effectively push you into asking your GP to say you are unfit for work when that is not the case – and when the reality is you are vulnerable to Covid.”

Caroline Lucas: "It is unfair to push you into asking your GP to say you are unfit for work, when the reality is you are vulnerable to Covid"

In particular, she noted that it makes no sense for the government to issue    (which relates primarily to social situations over which they have control), while expecting them at the same time to return to a workplace (over which they have NO control).

As a charity and support group for those living with a rarer blood cancer, and working alongside our umbrella organisations, the Blood Cancer Alliance, and Cancer52, we call on all MPs to raise this topic in parliament with ministers. We also call on the APPG for Blood Cancer to assist in this task.

Those classified as CEV should not be put under pressure to effectively risk their lives and/or those of the people they care for. 

Help us explain the situation to ministers, employers and the DWP.

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