photo credit: Macmillan Big Busk 2012 via photopin (license)

Cancer patients in Scotland are to receive extra financial assistance to claim social security benefits and access money and debt advice services, the Scottish Government has announced today.

Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess announced the £450,000 funding package in a meeting with support workers at the Beaten West Cancer Centre in Glasgow, where she said the extra investment for MacMillan Benefits Services will help cancer patients and their families worried about paying bills.

Last year, Macmillan advice services in Scotland helped cancer patients in claiming £16.9 million in benefits and grants they may have otherwise missed out on.

Research from the charity shows that 80% of cancer patients in Scotland are left £420 a year worse off after their diagnosis, due to a combination of lost income and extra costs.

The Scottish Government says the extra funding for Macmillan Benefits Services will form part of a full package of support and advice services confirmed in the 2016-17 draft budget.

Margaret Burgess said: “It is extremely stressful for people coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis to find themselves hundreds of pounds worse off and worried about paying their bills

“Trying to navigate the benefits process while dealing with the physical and emotional problems cancer brings can be very difficult.

“Our investment in the Macmillan Benefits Service is removing some of the financial stress and uncertainty that comes when people are diagnosed, but are faced with increased heating, transport and healthcare costs.

“This funding is part of our £2.5 million package for advice services and sits alongside other measures like the Scottish Welfare Fund which helps vulnerable people in crisis and enables people to live independently.”

Macmillan’s Head of Services Janice Preston said: “Money worries are a real issue for many people who have been diagnosed with cancer. Some people will need to give up work and this can come at the same time as they face increased costs like travelling to hospital for treatment, or higher heating bills as many cancer patients feel the cold more.

“Services like this are vitally important in helping patients access the money they need and Scottish Government support and funding make these services possible.”

In January of this year, Macmillan warned that proposed cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) could result in cancer patients losing their homes.

A survey of 1,000 people living with cancer in Britain found one in ten would struggle to pay housing costs in their benefits were reduced.

Despite the charity’s warnings, the UK Government continues to press ahead with plans to cut £30 a week for claimants in the Work Related Activity Group of ESA.