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In this quickfire blog, our Welfare Officer, Lisa, outlines the most popular topics that have come in to the inbox this month and gives some top tips on what you can do if you are in a similar position:
1: Patients who have not received shielding letters from the NHS.
A significant number of people have still not received their shielding letters from the NHS, even if they know they are supposed to be shielding. We have heard from several people who have needed to provide this evidence to their employers so they are able to be paid whilst shielding for 12 weeks.
The NHS letter is the best evidence you can provide to your employer to show this. We would encourage you as a first step to speak to your GP and/or your haematologists about your situation and ask them to provide this letter. Your GP will have access to a system that can generate letters for anyone they feel needs one.
Many of you have still been struggling to get your letters and so have requested assistance with explaining your situation. We have been encouraging employers to furlough the patient or make adjustments in the workplace allowing them to work from home. This is not guaranteed, but some employers are simply struggling to keep up to date with the government support, and sometimes a letter to help you explain the situation is all they need.
Additionally, our Welfare Officer can direct you to the correct organisation or help you to find out more about your employment rights, now and in the future. A diagnosis of cancer means that you are protected from discrimination from the moment of diagnosis under the Equality Act 2010 (similar legislation is in place in Scotland). Employers must make reasonable adjustments to ensure you can keep working and to ensure you are not disadvantaged by your diagnosis. A reasonable adjustment during the coronavirus pandemic may include furloughing you, since you should not be financially disadvantaged as a result of the government guidance to shield.
2: Financial support
We know from our patient experience survey that many leukaemia patients are already financially disadvantaged following a diagnosis. Patients and their families can lose income due to not being able to work, or can face increased costs, such as extra heating at home. The coronavirus pandemic has not made this easier for many patients.
Whilst financial support has increased during the pandemic, we also know this is a particularly stressful time. This can make it even harder to sit down and think properly about your finances. Many of you may also be unsure of how to navigate the welfare system, or are new to computers and the internet. Our Welfare Officer is able to help if you aren’t sure where to go.
For example, this month we have:
- Liaised with an energy supplier to negotiate smaller repayments on an energy bill.
- Advised and given information about accessing schemes to help with gas and electric debts.
- Applying for help through charity grants to provide appliances for those who cannot afford to replace them.
- Helped someone without access to a computer at home to apply for benefits.
- Assisted with challenging a decision related to benefits.
- Advice on where to go and what to do if you find yourself homeless.
Are you experiencing any of these issues?
You can see an overview of all the recently announced government financial support for the pandemic in our blog here.
For general information about shielding and support for patients whilst staying at home, please see our blog here.