Shirley Melly has been a Macmillan Welfare Benefits Adviser for over three years.
She explains how Macmillan grants and welfare benefits advice can help people cope with the financial pressures caused by cancer.
What sort of money worries can follow a cancer diagnosis?
Cancer just isn’t something people can plan or save for, and so many people who come to see me have nothing more to support them than statutory sick pay.
The reality is that when it comes to the cost of travelling to cancer treatment, eating healthy food to help you recover, or affording to put your heating on, £89 of statutory sick pay doesn’t go very far.
A lot of people who are of working age may also have young families to support, or mortgages still to pay. Any loss of work income can leave them feeling like they simply can’t afford to be ill.
The emotional stress caused by money worries, at a time when many people are already at their most vulnerable, simply doesn’t bear thinking about.
It is a privilege to be able to play a part in relieving just some of it, either through welfare benefits advice, or providing individual Macmillan grants where needed.
What are the most common areas of Macmillan grant support?
There are the costs of getting to treatment. Or the cost of new clothes because of the drastic changes in people’s weight or body shape that can follow it.
Macmillan grants are there to help people meet the wide range of urgent costs created by cancer.
Without a doubt, most people apply for a Macmillan grant to help them cover their heating bills.
While it might be more obvious during the winter – especially after the heavy snows we’ve recently had in Wales – people recovering from cancer treatment can often feel the cold all year round.
I can’t think of anything worse.
Imagine trying to recover from the pain of surgery, chemo or radiotherapy – all while shivering at home because you are too worried about money to put the heating on for just a little bit of physical comfort.
How can people who need support get in touch?
I work alongside various clinics in the Macmillan Chemotherapy Unit at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr, but there will be someone like me in your area of Wales as well.
Most people come to me after being referred by other health professionals – it is so important that people with cancer are made aware of what we can do to help them.
I would recommend that anyone with cancer asks for financial advice as early as possible. Your health professional should be able to help you.
People can also find their local benefits advisers by visiting the ‘in my area’ of macmillan.org.uk.
What level of support can you offer people affected by cancer?
Our welfare benefits advice service is free and confidential not only for people with cancer, but also their families.
Most people diagnosed with cancer have never applied for benefits. They don’t know where to start when it comes to the benefits they are entitled to because of their illness.
The welfare benefits system is also becoming increasingly complex, so we are here to help people affected by cancer to navigate it.
Everyone who comes to us has different needs, and we can advise and assist with applications on a wide range of health-related welfare benefits.
I can help people apply for things like Employment and Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefits.
We also cover all means-tested benefits such as Housing and Council Tax Benefit, Guarantee Pension Credit, Income Support and Universal Credit.
There really should be no stigma or shame about asking for help.
Cancer can have a huge impact on people’s finances and we are here to help people find out what support they are entitled to.
What advice would you give someone affected by cancer?
Whether you think you qualify or not, my advice would always be to get in touch with a Macmillan adviser.
I would also say that the earlier you get in touch the better.
For most people, once they come to terms with their diagnosis, money quickly becomes the next biggest worry.
If left unmanaged financial pressures can build up quickly, and the stress it causes does nothing to improve people’s recovery or quality of life.
We are always here. We’ll be with you throughout the entire process.
If you need financial support please visit http://www.macmillan.org.uk where you can search for your local welfare benefits services, or call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.