How the Budget News Affects You, and Why We’ll Continue to Push for Change

It’s been around two weeks since the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced his Autumn Statement, setting out the spending priorities of the Government. In this blog, our Policy and Evidence Manager, Charlotte Crowley, reflects on the announcements and their impact on you.

As autumn rolls past and we move into this bitterly cold beginning to winter, we know you’re not just facing leukaemia – you’re also dealing with the ups and downs of the cost-of-living crisis. We’ve been highlighting this for nearly a year now, when we launched our Leukaemia Levy campaign via a petition to parliament calling for more action. You may have seen recent announcements on new Government spending policies, known as the Autumn Statement, and plenty of debate following this about how it may or may not ease the crisis.  

We initially responded as the announcements came out, and you can read that initial response below:

So, let us chat more about what this might mean for all those affected by leukaemia and what we at Leukaemia Care are doing to support you. 

Making Money Moves for Your Health: 

Whilst the Chancellor spoke for over an hour in the House of Commons, there was one big gap in announcements – any further spending for healthcare. Many of our campaigns rely on the ability of the NHS to adequately respond to our requests – for example, GPs having the time to learn about leukaemia symptoms and conduct more blood tests. We also know how important Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS’) are to patients and their families. Yet this Autumn Statement provided no additional funding to improve the workforce, despite many charities like us raising concerns about the lack of extra funding to actual deliver a stronger workforce. Greater spending on cancer services is essential so that we can continue to improve the care you all receive. Leukaemia Care will continue to campaign for good care, in spite of these money challenges, through campaigns such as ‘Spot Leukaemia’ and ‘Left to Watch, Wait Worry’.  

Looking Out for You: 

The budget news isn’t just about big numbers; it affects things like welfare policy too. We know that many of you who reach out for support, such as through our welfare service, are not currently in work, either long term or short term. Our ‘Living with Leukaemia Surveys’ over the years show that many patients have to stop working for at least a short period. We are  pushing for changes that can make your life a bit easier when you’re dealing with the financial stuff that often comes with leukaemia. We, like many other health and disability charities, are concerned that the new policy of removing benefits from people who do not find work in a certain time frame does not match with the reality of people live with leukaemia. Your pathway back to work, if you are able to do so, is different for each person. The long-term impact of current treatments, such as CML patients taking TKIs with some experiencing debilitating side effects, or transplantation with chronic GVHD, leaves many of you unwell in the long term. Much of the rhetoric about people out of work implies that this is an active choice not to work, while we know that many people do want to get back to work in the job they had before diagnosis – but they simply cannot. We have also heard, especially since the pandemic, of several stories of people with less than understanding employers. Whilst this is the minority, the new policy from the Government suggests that working from home and similar adjustments are a matter of just being requested by a person and your stories show this is not the case. The impact of inadequate support when you are unable to work or face increased costs is at the heart of our Leukaemia Levy campaign. We will continue to work to change the narrative and highlight the physical, emotional, and financial challenges you face day to day.  

More Than Just Health – It’s About Your Money Too: 

We continue to see significant demand for our Cost of Living grants, demand continues to exceed the resources we have. Our welfare advice service is as popular as ever too, and this is a trend reflected across the charity sector. As well as reviewing support for those who are unwell and less able to work, the Chancellor also sought to make changes to increase the amount of money people keep from their pay packet. The amount you pay of your income on National Insurance will decrease from 12% to 10%. Yet, we remain concerned this is not enough to improve the financial situation of leukaemia patients. The Leukaemia Levy campaign showed us that many of you already face high energy bills. Yet these are due to increase again in January, with the average bills set to rise by around the same amount that the average person will gain in National Insurance. This could leave many people in the same position, with the same money, as if no changes had occurred at all. We continue to urge the Government to consider further support with energy bills for leukaemia patients, as more support is so clearly needed.  

Budgets and Benevolence: Exploring How What the Government Spends Impacts What We Can Do for You 

As well as impacting on you directly and thus indirectly affecting our work, policy and budget changes also can have a direct impact on us as a charity. There is the obvious impact on our finances, in that people often, understandably, give less to charity when they are struggling themselves. But I am referring a less well-known link. With charity finances stretched more than ever and no further support from Governments to address the issues that charities are currently solving, we risk having people fall into a gap in the middle where there is a lack of support to meet the ever-growing demand. The less support given to those who are unable to work more, such as leukaemia patients, the more demand there is for our services. And our services are not nice to haves, they are an essential part of coping with an illness like leukaemia. Getting help when you have financial troubles is itself linked to better mental health, and then if you add the strain of an illness on top of that, you can see how the services are so important. We must continue to highlight to all policy makers, of all Governments, that support for non-physical impact of cancer is not optional.  

(Nearly) One Year In – What’s next? 

So, it’s been a year since we first launched Leukaemia Levy. But we won’t stop until leukaemia patients no longer face that levy. So, here is to hoping the Leukaemia Levy gets the attention it deserves, making sure the budget isn’t just about numbers but about supporting you, especially when you are taking on the challenge of leukaemia. Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to get involved throughout the year. 

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If you or a loved one needs advice or support regarding your diagnosis, please get in touch. You can call our free helpline on 08088 010 444 and speak to one of our nurses. Alternatively, you can send a message to our team via WhatsApp on 07500 068 065 (services available Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm).

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