Changes to the benefits system could leave tens of thousands of cancer patients without a vital financial lifeline, a leading charity has warned.
Macmillan Cancer Support says over 85,000 people with cancer are dependent on the charity to understand and access the benefits system.
This includes information on accessing benefits and tax credits, help in completing complex and complicated application forms, and tribunal representation from Macmillan’s local benefits advice services.
Overall, more than 120,000 people with cancer in the UK required financial advice and support from Macmillan in 2014.
More than 33,000 cancer patients turned to Macmillan in 2014 for help with paying for clothing, heating their homes, getting to and from hospital, buying bedding or many more vital items.
Around 53% of cancer patients who received a grant from Macmillan last year, used the money to pay for clothing or to heat their homes.
Macmillan says people with cancer often need to purchase new clothing due to weight loss or gain, abdominal swelling or a colostomy bag or special bras if they have had a mastectomy. They also tend to spend more time at home, leading to increased fuel bills.
Macmillan is calling on the Government to rethink a proposed £30 a week cut to the sickness and disability benefit, Employment and Support Allowance.
Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “The growing number of people with cancer turning to Macmillan with money worries is a stark reminder of the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis.
“Clothing and rising energy bills are just two of a number of costs people with cancer are burdened with at a time when on average their income halves and their outgoings rocket. People can face spiralling financial problems they don’t know how to manage when they’re already dealing with the gruelling physical and emotional consequences of cancer.
“As numbers surge, the support that organisations like Macmillan provide are becoming even more urgent and important but we cannot do it alone.
“Every sector has a duty to protect people with cancer from further financial turmoil. Yet the Government is proposing to reduce the benefits of people with cancer, who are currently unable to return to work because they’re not well enough, by around £30 a week in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.
“The Government must reconsider these plans or risk pushing the most vulnerable over the edge financially.”
Paul Burks, 56, from Essex, was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2010. In April this year he was told the cancer had returned.
“My loss of earnings was huge – I went from a three figure income to £67 a week. We had to extend the mortgage and my wife had to take over the full thing.
“I’ve not been able to work because of all the problems since my diagnosis and I’ve suffered from so many unexpected expenses. My wife came with me for treatment but it was impossible to come home every day because it was too costly for two people to do the journey for a week.
“Heating is another major expense that you don’t think about. When I get back from treatment, my immune system is low so I have to have the heating on all day and we even have to buy more cleaning products to keep away any germs I might pick up. My wife often sits there with her calculator dealing with the bank.
“Macmillan benefit advisors really helped me with all the paper work. There is so much red tape. Cancer has a devastating impact not only your body but on your finances too.”
Benefit Cuts Could Leave Cancer Patients ‘Without A Financial Lifeline’, Charity Warns, by Welfare Weekly is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (text only).
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