Routinely offering people affected by cancer the opportunity to access financial advice has many positive outcomes. Helen Powell, Macmillan Specialist Support Advisor for the Benefits Advice Programme explains why tackling cancer poverty is a real priority for Macmillan in Wales.
Cancer poverty is a really important issue. Our “Counting the Cost of Cancer” Research
has highlighted that finances are a source of worry for over 50 percent of people with a cancer diagnosis in Wales – with a quarter needing to cut down on normal household spending and a fifth experiencing problems paying day-to-day bills and housing costs.
In Welsh Government’s Cancer Delivery Plan it says that all people affected by cancer should be routinely offered the opportunity to access financial advice. Macmillan believes that access to timely and appropriate advice helps to improve quality of life allowing people to make informed choices by reducing financial hardship and relieving associated stress and anxiety. Macmillan asks that each person receiving a cancer diagnosis is offered this opportunity.
Macmillan has been delivering benefit advice services across Wales for a number of years. These services have been very successful in helping people affected by cancer to obtain the benefits they are entitled to because of their illness.
In 2014 in Wales, nearly 3,000 people affected by cancer were helped to access benefits – totalling £13.4 million. These services also helped secure over £20,000 in Macmillan grants to help people to pay for costs arising from their cancer diagnosis – such as extra heating costs or the costs of travelling to hospital.
Macmillan currently has 18 benefit advisers offering face-to-face advice through a number of different community venues and hospitals. This includes the three main hospitals in North Wales, as well as Velindre Cancer Centre, Singleton, Withybush and Glangwili hospitals in South Wales, plus delivery through the Macmillan unit in Prince Charles hospital, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot hospital and a number of other sites
In Wales, Macmillan has invested £2.72 million in the provision of these services in the last 10 years, as well as focussing on the issue of the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis through the Counting the Cost of Cancer campaign which seeks to:
- Raise awareness of the financial impact of cancer amongst the public, supporters and stakeholders.
- Influence stakeholders to understand, recognise and respond to the importance of making financial advice and support routinely available for people affected by cancer in Wales.
- Ensure that every person diagnosed with cancer in Wales is routinely offered the opportunity to access benefit advice.
- Support people affected by cancer to access financial advice and support as part of the assessment and care planning process
- To ensure that support and advice services are sustained and, where there are gaps in provision for people affected by cancer, these are addressed.
Macmillan in Wales believes enabling cancer patients to access financial advice as soon as possible after their diagnosis before any financial problems escalate has numerous positive outcomes. A reduction in financial hardship resulting from good benefit advice leads to an increased ability to cope better with treatment and recovery, reduces anxiety and stress and improves quality of life. This can also result in reduced need to contact hospital or social work staff thereby reducing costs associated with meeting patients needs.
Macmillan Welfare Benefit Advisers are delivering advice locally in many parts of Wales and people affected by cancer can also ring the Macmillan Support Line or check on our website for a wide range of advice and information and to find your local service.