Nearly 400,000 people living with cancer are struggling to keep up with household bills and credit commitments, according to a damning new survey.
A YouGov poll, commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support, found that 42% of cancer patients are struggling to pay household bills and 36% said this was entirely or partly due to a cancer diagnosis.
Macmillan warns that people living with cancer are facing a “dire financial situation”, as they incur extra costs for treatment and are left unable to work.
They also warn that the Government’s welfare reforms risk leaving many cancer patients without the vital financial support they desperately need.
Tens of thousands of cancer patients say they have skipped paying vital bills in the last year, such as council tax and water bills, entirely due to a lack of money.
One in six (17%) could not afford to buy clothing they needed and one in seven (14%) were forced to buy less nutritious food.
10% had even skipped meals entirely or reduced portion sizes.
Almost one in three cancer patients questioned by Macmillan admitted to relying on friends and family to help pay bills, borrowing an average £1,270 in the last three months. Some had borrowed £10,000 or more.
Cathy Simms, 47, from South Wales was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012.
“The battle with debt has been harder than the cancer itself”, she said.
“I lost my well paid job due to discrimination, took my employer to court and partially won the case.
“But it’s had devastating effects as I lost two years’ income when I couldn’t pay my bills, resulting in huge unpaid debts. To settle these I may face bankruptcy or an IVA and even selling the family home.
“It’s been the most awful experience.”
Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Today’s findings are truly distressing. They shine a light on just how dire the financial situation has become for many people with cancer in the UK.
“No one should have to worry about where money to pay for their heating is going to come from when they’re going through cancer, or be forced to buy less nutritious food at a time when they need it the most.
“Unfortunately cancer comes with a cost, and not just one that’s physical and emotional, but one which can bring patients to the brink of financial crisis.
“Often cancer patients are forced to manage a loss of income, if they or their partner need to stop working, on top of the additional costs that come with a cancer diagnosis, such as regular trips to medical appointments and increased household bills as a person with cancer feels the cold more.
“On top of this, the Welfare Reform and Work Bill is currently going through Parliament and it proposes to reduce the benefits of cancer patients who are unable to or need help getting back to work by around £30 a week.
“Macmillan is calling on the Government to reconsider these plans as they could leave thousands of people with cancer without a sufficient financial lifeline at a time when they are already struggling.
“We understand that managing the financial impact of the disease is complex and that ultimately there is not a ‘magic bullet’ which will solve all of this.
“But every sector has a duty to protect people with cancer from further financial turmoil and the Government now has the opportunity to take the first step.”