Being diagnosed with cancer has hit people up and down the country with a ‘financial wrecking-ball’ and it’s been worse amid the pandemic, Macmillan Cancer Support has told This is Money.
Bill McGregor, 71, from Dundee, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January last year. He had surgery to remove his prostate, but the cancer has now spread to lymph nodes in his pelvis.
Speaking to This is Money, Mr McGregor said he was meant to have chemotherapy earlier this year, but this was cancelled due to Covid-19. He is now receiving hormone injections every three months as an alternative treatment.
As well as dealing with the physical and mental toll of cancer, Mr McGregor said the financial fallout triggered by his illness made him ‘really stressed out’ and he ended up losing his job.
Bill McGregor, 71, from Dundee, pictured at his beloved allotment, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January last year
‘When I was told I had cancer I was frightened, I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to. I felt so alone,’ Mr McGregor said.
He had been working as a lollipop man on around £70 a week, but had to give up his job after his diagnosis and was eventually made redundant around a year after he was first told he had cancer.
Before working as a lollipop man, Mr McGregor worked as an engineer in hospitals for over 28 years, and once worked at the Ninewells Hospital, where he has been treated for his cancer.
Finding it difficult to concentrate, sleep or relax and constantly worried about his health, the impact of his illness on his wife and his finances, Mr McGregor turned to Macmillan Cancer Support for help. With their guidance, Mr Gregor now has a blue badge for parking and receives £320 a month in the form of Personal Independence Payments.
A member of the Macmillan team went to Mr McGregor’s house and helped him fill in the myriad of forms needed for the PIP application and a blue badge.
Mr McGregor, who before the pandemic was also receiving reflexology support at Maggie’s hospice in Dundee, said he now ‘feels a bit better’ about his financial situation and was ‘really glad’ he had Macmillan by his side.
He also remains passionate about his allotment, and while admitting it is becoming a ‘struggle’ to tend to it as frequently as he would like, he still works on it as often as he can and gains great pleasure from it.
‘I’m a single mum and had no savings left’
Speaking to This is Money, Catherine, who has opted not to reveal her surname, is suffering from primary brain tumours.
Catherine, 48, who lives in Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire and has an eight-year-old daughter called Michelle, has been treated at Nottingham City hospital.
She spent six months in hospital receiving intensive treatment for her cancer and went on half pay at her teaching job after six months, but she still had bills to pay and had ‘no savings left’.
‘I became unable to repay my loan and my bank agreed for me to make a minimum monthly repayment for three months, but it still affected my credit rating.
‘My work place has been great and although I went back phased return to work, they put me back on full-time pay salary which they didn’t have to do by law,’ Catherine told This is Money.
But, another major financial sticking point emerged as Catherine’s landlady sold her home while she was receiving her cancer treatment.
She was left unable to pay the costs involved in moving to a new property, and her tumours had rendered her unable to drive. She sought help from Macmillan to get her back on track.
‘I was financially unable to pay for the moving cost, and had much appreciated help from Alison Hall (Macmillan Nottingham City) to apply to teaching charities and the council. I received financial help from them to pay the removal company, a cooker and carpet our council house for me and my daughter, I was also given a cheque by Macmillan.’
She added: ‘Macmillan financial guidance was a life saver in itself, and having regular visits from Alison Hall at hospital was also morally a true relief. I can’t word my appreciation to Macmillan and Nottingham City Hospital.’
Five tips from Macmillan to help get your finances back on track
Here are five tips from Macmillan’s Richard Manson aimed at helping cancer patients and anyone with a serious illness start getting their finances in order:
1. Complete a budget
This is a way of comparing money coming in, for example, from a salary, pensions or benefits, and the payments going out, such as rent or mortgage, insurance, general living expenses and other spending. This can help you stay in control of your finances.
If your spending is higher than your income, you may need to think about making some changes. This can also be useful if you need to contact your bank because they will want to know as much information as possible about your financial situation before seeing what support they can offer.
2. Check your insurance
Some insurance policies, such as critical illness, will make a payment for a cancer diagnosis and a life insurance policy will often include terminal illness benefits, which may allow an early claim if your doctor expects a prognosis of less than 12 months.
Even if you’re unable to claim, some policies will include additional benefits that can be accessed after a diagnosis, such as waiver of premium which will pay the insurance premium if you cannot work because of illness or disability.
Your insurance company will be able to tell you exactly what you are covered for and what additional benefits the policy includes.
3. Contact your bank
While the support you may be offered can vary between banks depending on your personal situation and their policies, it is helpful to contact them and find out what they can do for you.
For some, this could include a mortgage payment holiday, waived account charges and fees or guidance on budgeting and planning. Some banks may offer specialist services – for example, Macmillan has trained dedicated staff in specialist Cancer Support Teams at Lloyds Banking group and Nationwide.
4. Ensure you have an up to date will
Macmillan believes that everyone should have a will regardless of their age or health.
A valid will ensures that the right people inherit and that your loved ones don’t suffer unnecessary hardship. A will can also be used to arrange affairs tax efficiently and to appoint people to sort out an estate following a death.
5. Review your private or occupational pension
If you need to retire or leave work due to ill health, thinking about your pension options is useful for many different reasons.
If you haven’t already, you may be able to access your pension because of your age or health circumstances. It’s also important to make sure that you have filled out an expression of wish form.
This tells the trustees of the scheme where any death benefits should be paid if the worst happens. Pension scheme rules vary and the decisions you make will affect your family’s financial future so it’s important to get financial advice before you make any decisions.
Source: Macmillan for This is Money
‘Substantial’ rise in calls for help amid pandemic
Speaking to This is Money, Richard Manson, a financial guidance specialist on Macmillan’s support line, said Macmillan had seen a ‘substantial’ rise in the number of calls from cancer patients worried about their finances since Covid-19 started.
‘Many have been left reeling from the financial sting of the coronavirus pandemic on top of a cancer diagnosis, in a cruel “double whammy”.
Richard Manson, a financial guidance specialist on Macmillan’s support line, said Macmillan had seen a ‘substantial’ rise in the number of calls from cancer patients worried about their finances since Covid-19 started
‘Further to the calls we are already receiving, we expect to see a significant increase in demand for our services over the coming months as government schemes are withdrawn or changed.
‘Additionally, the considerable backlog in cancer services created by the pandemic means that many may be diagnosed late or have experienced delays to their treatment. As these people receive their diagnoses or their treatment resumes, we know that finances can become peoples’ biggest worry – sometimes more so than their diagnosis itself.’
The boss of Macmillan is equally all too aware of the financial toll a cancer diagnosis can trigger.
Lynda Thomas, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘At Macmillan, we hear from people living with cancer every day who are desperately worried about their finances – from worrying about paying their mortgage or putting food on the table, to holding off on switching the heating on when they need it and sitting at home chilled to their bones.
‘It’s no exaggeration to say that receiving the life-changing news that you have cancer, for some people, is nothing short of a financial wrecking-ball.’
What financial help is available to cancer patients?
Tackling cancer, treatment side effects and financial worries can be a bewildering, frightening and isolating experience.
But, on the financial front, there are a number of channels people can access to help them deal with the monetary fallout triggered by a cancer diagnosis.
For many people, relying on the state or contacting a charity for help will seem alien and this in itself may even prevent some people from claiming valuable financial help.
But, money woes do not go away on their own, so taking that first step of seeking help is vital and not something to be afraid of.
his is Money and Macmillan have outlined some of the main benefits and support channels people with cancer of other serious illnesses may wish to consider applying for. Other channels of support ma be available to you, but in all cases, eligibility criteria are likely to apply:
Benefits and other support
– Statutory Sick Pay: SSP pays for 28 weeks off work at a rate of £95.85 per week. This kicks in if you have been off sick for more than four days and is paid to you by your employer.
– Personal Independence Payment: This benefit replaces the old style Disability Living Allowance for adults (this is still in place for those under the age of 16) and is worth between £23.60 and £151.40 per week. Couples may receive a higher amount.
It is set up to cover those have difficulty with daily tasks such as managing medicines or preparing meals. It covers both physical and mental capabilities.
PIP is tax-free and you could qualify for this whether you are working through treatment or are unable to, as long as you are between 16-64.
It is divided into the Daily Living and Mobility components and the amount you receive will depend on whether you qualify for the standard or enhanced rates.
Anyone who has a terminal or non-curable diagnosis will automatically qualify for the enhanced rate. People who are terminally ill can also get a PIP more quickly than others. Claims cannot be backdated, so it is important to claim as soon as possible if you think you are eligible.
– Employment and Support Allowance: You can apply for ESA if you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work.
You can’t get ESA if you are claiming SSP and/or Jobseeker’s Allowance at the same time.
For the first 13 weeks during an assessment period anyone under 25 gets up to £58.90 a week, everyone else gets up to £74.35.
Next there is a Work Capability Assessment to sort you into one of two groups – the Work-Related Activity Group or the Support Group.
Those who are unwell or disabled typically qualify for the Support category, which pays a slightly higher rate at up to £113.55 a week and won’t require you to attend any meetings to get you back into work.
– Universal Credit: This is a payment to help with your living costs. It’s paid monthly – or twice a month for some people in Scotland.
You may be able to get it if you’re on a low income, out of work or you cannot work. It is available to people over 18 but under the state pension age.
Universal credit is replacing a number of benefits, including income-related ESA, Housing Benefit and Tax Credits. Use the online checker to find out if the switch over to Universal Credit will affect you.
The basic level amount is £342.72 for a single person over 25 or £409.89 for a single person over 25 per month. You may get more money on top of your standard allowance if you’re eligible.
– Attendance Allowance: If you aged over the state pension age the alternative to PIP is Attendance Allowance. It is worth either £59.70 or £89.15 per week.
To be eligible you must have a physical disability or illness which requires extra help to look after yourself.
– Pension credit: This is paid to those over state pension age dependent on your income, and is divided into two halves.
The Guarantee Credit part is a basic rate to top up your income to a minimum threshold of £173.75 for single people and £265.20 for couples.
Savings Credit is paid to those who have saved towards their retirement, if they or their partner reached state pension age before April 6 2016. It is worth an extra £13.97 per week for single people and £15.62 for a couple.
Anyone with a severe disability, certain housing costs or who is a carer may be eligible for a higher rate.
– Income tax refund: You may be able to get a tax refund if your incomes falls or you have to give up work because of a serious illness.
Your employer may be able to organise this. You can also apply for a tax refund online or contact HMRC on 0300 200 3000.
Help with council tax or rates mortgage interest and bills
According to Macmillan, there are other benefits, loans and grants available to help with the costs of housing.
Local council tax reduction schemes can help towards the cost of your council tax if you are on a low income. If you live in Northern Ireland, you may be able to apply for help to pay your rates bill.
If you own your home, you may be able to apply for a loan from the government to help pay your mortgage interest payments.
You may also be able to get help if you need to adapt, repair or improve your home. The help available depends on where you live in the UK.
Macmillan has a handy page online which outlines all the help available to cancer patients struggling with mortgage repayments, rental costs or bill troubles.
Healthcare help, travel costs and grants
People with cancer may be eligible to get help with prescription costs, wigs, fabric supports, dental treatment and eye treatments, Macmillan says.
In England, prescriptions are free for people with cancer. If you need prescriptions for anything related to cancer or its effects, you can apply for a medical exemption certificate. You need to collect an FP92A form from your GP surgery. This lasts for five years and can be renewed if you are still eligible.
If you need special equipment or aids to help you live at home, you may be able to get what you need for free. If you pay for your own nursing home charges, you may also be entitled to financial help.
Travelling to and from hospital can be expensive. You may be able to get help with the cost of going to hospital for treatment.
As well as potentially getting help with prescription, travel and other health-related costs, Macmillan also offers grants, which are ‘small, discretionary payments to help people with the extra costs that cancer can cause.’ They are usually a one-off payment. They are for people who have a low level of income and savings. Other grants and loans may also be available.
|Means tested||Income independent||Over pension age|
|Personal Independence Payment||Income-related Employment Support Allowance||Attendance Allowance|
|Disability Living Allowance (under 16)||Tax Credits||Pension Credit|
|Contribution based Employment Support Allowance||Housing Benefit|
|Council Tax Reduction|
|Support for Mortgage Interest|
|Statutory Sick Pay|
Anyone with cancer in need of extra financial support can contact the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00. It is open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm.