Macmillan's welfare support service is pulling in nearly £2,500 for each cancer patient it works with, but many are still missing out it claims
A massive £285m in government benefits has been put in the pockets of Scottish cancer patients by a charity’s welfare rights service.
Macmillan Cancer Support has helped 112,000 cancer patients and their carers claim government benefits, grants and supported them to deal with debts since 2003.
The huge figure equates to a financial gain of £2,500 for each person helped by the 22 Macmillan services across the country since the first one was established 13-years ago.
It’s not easy when you’re focused on your loved one to try to think of what financial support and benefits are available out there
Macmillan set up its first benefits advice service in 2003 after research found cancer patients were missing out on millions of pounds because they had no idea how to claim – despite evidence that showed money was the second biggest worry for cancer patients after pain. This was followed by research in 2013 that found 80% of cancer patients in Scotland were £420 a month worse off after diagnosis.
Former community education worker Joanne Moore says getting benefits advice from Macmillan allowed her to take time off work to care for her mum before she died from cancer.
The 52-year-old was left reeling after both her mum Helen, 72, and dad John, 78, were diagnosed with cancer.
She knew she would need to give up her work to care for them but the single mum had no idea how she would cope financially.
Luckily after visiting the local job centre for advice the West Lothian woman spoke to someone who knew about the local Macmillan benefits advice service.
Worker Melanie Bunce talked Joanne through her options and visited her mum and dad at home and helped them claim benefits as well.
Joanne said: “I was in a lot of shock and I was quite confused. Melanie helped me fill in the forms for housing benefit and a carer’s allowance because I just couldn’t face them.
“She was very compassionate because at times I was crying and not making much sense. She was absolutely fantastic with mum and dad. She got them attendance allowance and a mobility card and told them about other services that were available that we didn’t know about.
“It wasn’t easy giving up my job but I’m glad I did because in the end we only had 11 months left with my mum. She took a secondary cancer and died in November.
“It’s not easy when you’re focused on your loved one to try to think of what financial support and benefits are available out there."
Macmillan’s 22 benefits services are offered in partnership with local authorities and Citizens Advice Bureaus. The Scottish Government fund the operation of the Macmillan services within the five cancer centres across Scotland.
Despite the huge reach of the services, Macmillan says there is still work to be done to make sure everyone gets help.
Macmillan’s head in Scotland, Janice Preston, said: “Cancer can have a hugely negative impact on someone’s finances. Often they are forced to give up work while facing increased costs like travel to hospital.
“Many patients will never have claimed benefits before and trying to navigate the system and fill in long complex forms while dealing with the physical and emotional problems cancer brings can be very difficult.
“We are proud that the services pioneered by Macmillan have been able to help so many people. Demand is only likely to increase as a result of benefits cuts and changes.”
The charity says, despite the impressive amount claimed, some people are still slipping through the cracks and missing out on benefits they desperately need simply because they don’t know help is available.
Macmillan is calling on every political party in Scotland to pledge that if they get into power in May, they will follow through on the recently published Scottish Government cancer plan, which promises every cancer patient will be offered a holistic needs assessment, including an assessment of their financial needs.
Visit Macmillan’s benefits services or call 0800 808 000.