Carol Scott: Added financial burden increases anxiety of cancer sufferers

PEOPLE are often shocked by the revelation that, for many cancer sufferers, money is more of a worry than their cancer. When a cancer diagnosis hits individuals and families, they are faced with a range of complex issues, one of which is finances.

People are catapulted into a world completely alien to them as they are placed into a maze that is called the “benefits system”. Welfare Benefits Advice helps to ensure that this financial journey is made as smooth as possible and that income is maximised.

Nine in ten people of working age diagnosed with cancer in the UK experience a drop in income and an increase in expenditure as a result of their cancer diagnosis. For example, I recently met a man named Martin (not his real name) at Maggie’s. He is married with a young family and can no longer work due to advanced bowel cancer. Following his appointment at Maggie’s, Martin will be receiving a Disability Living Allowance payment, and an application has been made for a Macmillan grant to help with heating costs and the cost of replacing clothing, as Martin has lost a lot of weight and is feeling the cold due to his chemotherapy.

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Martin and his family have expressed a real sense of relief that someone has been able to help them to gain their entitled monies.

While it is always a great job, I am afraid that I am looking ahead to 2012 with trepidation. A new Welfare Reform Bill (now in the Lords) proposes to limit contributions-based employment and support allowance to one year and replace current qualifying tests to six months, thus denying extra money to those with imminent financial need, for a longer period. Many cancer charities have lobbied for changes to this bill.

Having the benefits in place has allowed Martin and his family to concentrate on themselves and seek more support from Maggie’s. Until the basic necessities of paying for a roof over your head and food and heating bills are dealt with, people cannot begin to address the emotional and existential questions that arise from cancer and to focus on living the best life possible with their remaining time.

Carol Scott is Welfare Rights Advisor for Maggie’s Glasgow (Gatehouse & Gartnavel)