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Anderson slams Minister over cancer payment snub

9 March, 2010 - by Maeve McLaughlin

Sinn Féin Human Rights Spokesperson, Martina Anderson MLA, (Foyle) has slammed the Social Security Minister Margaret Ritchie for refusing to lobby for winter fuel payments to be extended to cancer patients.

Martina Anderson said:

“I am disappointed but not surprised at the Minister Margaret Ritchie’s response to my call for her to seek reform of the way the winter fuel payments are made.

“In particular, I argued that the payments should be extended to people of all ages who are suffering from cancer and other serious illnesses and for whom, a warm home is a vital part of their treatment.

“I also criticised the fact that these payments are paid to those over 60’s living abroad while cancer patients in the North of Ireland receive no assistance whatsoever.

“For example, last year, 65,000 people over 60 living in European countries including Spain, Portugal and Greece received the payments of between £125 and £400.

“I believe that this is a total disgrace while cancer patients are refused assistance and I asked the Minister to lobby for a reform of this system with a view to having winter fuel payments extended to cancer sufferers. Unfortunately, her response didn’t even acknowledge that there is a problem, let alone indicate a willingness to do anything about it.

“Rather than defend the status quo – as Margaret Ritchie has done – she would be far better off putting her energies into seeking the transfer of the benefits system away from unaccountable British Ministers and into the hands of local representatives so that we can get on with the job of building a better future for the people we represent.”

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