Planning and managing your day-to-day finances can become more important following a diagnosis of a blood cancer but cancer can put a strain on your household budget. At a time when you might have extra costs, your income may change too if you need to reduce your working hours or give up working altogether, which could make financial issues a real worry for people who don’t have the means to support themselves through this time.
Managing your bills and bank accounts is important to make sure you’re not faced with any hefty charges. If it gets confusing, you may wish to ask someone who you trust to help you manage your finances day-to-day.
It’s important to try and record your spending and set a budget so you know how much money you have coming in and going out. If you’re unable to support yourself, you may need to consider using savings or speaking to someone about the benefits you may be entitled to. You should never feel embarrassed or guilty about applying for benefits as they are there for people who genuinely need help and cancer can affect people in many different situations. For example, if you are unable to look after your child throughout the day whilst undergoing treatment, you may need to pay for additional childcare and will need help doing so.
The benefits system in the UK is complex and can be confusing. The benefits you may be entitled to depend on many factors but it’s important to know your rights. For more information, speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or Macmillan.
If you are undergoing treatment for cancer, you should be eligible for free prescriptions. You will need a prescription charges exemption form from your GP.
If you do become eligible for an income related benefit, you may also be eligible for free dental work, NHS eye treatment and help with the cost of transport to NHS treatment, for instance, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. You would need to take your benefit award letter as proof of entitlement to the cashiers at the hospital; they will directly reimburse public transport (you will need the ticket you purchased), and give mileage costs for car travel. It is likely to be the case that transport will be provided by the hospital for those requiring regular treatment that are unable to travel independently and the hospital will usually provide information on this if requested.
It is always advisable to have a full benefits assessment with a benefits specialist if possible.
Work and cancer
If you’re in employment
If you’re in employment, you may need to take time off work due to the side effects from treatment and your blood cancer itself. Rates of company sick pay vary, however, statutory sick pay is likely to mean a substantial fall in income and you may be entitled to claim benefits so you are able to maintain your same standard of living.
Tax credits (both working and child tax credits) are designed to boost a low employment income, and a call to the tax credit helpline may be useful.
If you’re self-employed
There is no sick pay entitlement if you are self-employed. A claim for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) may be appropriate to help you in this situation, as you will have no source of income if you’re not working. A claim would either be based on national insurance contributions or income. Further information is available on the Gov UK website.
You may be eligible for a Blue Badge following a cancer diagnosis. This scheme is administered by your local council. Generally speaking, with the enhanced mobility component of PIP, eligibility for a Blue Badge is automatic (and also for road tax exemption), although you still need to apply. Without this, Blue Badges are awarded on a case-by-case basis. You can apply directly online at the Gov UK website or your local council should be able to help. Age UK can also provide assistance with your application if you are over 50.
Further support and information
If you are experiencing real financial hardship, there are sources of charitable assistance which may be able to help you. Macmillan Cancer Support has a grant scheme, for one off awards for extra costs incurred directly as a result of a cancer diagnosis. A Macmillan professional will have to make the application for you. There may also be other local charities (or occupational charities) that may be able to help, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau as they may be able to provide details.
Macmillan Cancer Support work in partnership with Citizens Advice to provide a welfare benefits advice service, which can carry out charitable applications. Details of this is available on their website, or telephone 0808 808 00 00.