What benefits are cancer patients entitled to?

When you are diagnosed with cancer, you automatically meet the disability definition under the Equality Act (2010). In this blog, we've taken information from our 'The Next Stage' booklet on what benefits you are entitled to.

Many people find that cancer has an impact on some of the practical aspects of their lives. This may be because you have been unable to work for some time, and maybe your partner has had to take time out of work to care for you. Recovering from a financially difficult situation can be a challenging and complicated process. It may be important to know that under the Equality Act (2010), you automatically meet the disability definition from the day you are diagnosed with cancer.


Information about the most relevant benefits are provided here. However, due to the significant changes introduced to the UK benefits system, it is strongly recommended to get help from an experienced welfare rights adviser. To speak to one, you can call the Macmillan Support Line (Tel: 0808 8080000), or your local Citizens Advice Bureau. You can also get a pack from your local Jobcentre or visit www.gov.uk/browse/disabilities.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

This benefit provides financial help to people who are unable to work following completion of the Statutory Sick Pay period (28 weeks). You may also be eligible if you can’t claim SSP because you’re self-employed, unemployed but not in receipt of Jobseeker’s allowance, you earn less that the National Insurance contribution threshold or are under State Pension age. ESA also provides personalised support to those who are able to work.

There are two different types of ESA, each with different eligibility criteria:

  1. Contribution-based ESA – you may be able to claim this if you have paid enough National Insurance contributions. This is not means tested and is not affected by your partner’s income, savings or how many hours they work.
  2. Income-related ESA – you may be able to claim if you earn less than £112 a week and haven’t paid enough National Insurance contributions. Income-related ESA is means tested, so if you or your partner have income or savings of £16,000 or work 24 hours or more a week, then you may not be eligible.

For 13 weeks after your claim you will receive the assessment rate and, if you are entitled to ESA, you will be placed in either the work-related activity group (up to £102.15 a week) or the support group (up to £109.30).

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

This benefit provides financial support for people under 65, who have had difficulty walking or taking care of themselves for at least three months. These difficulties should be expected to last for at least the next six months.

From April 2013, a new claim for Disability Living Allowance can only be made for children under 16.

Personal Independence Allowance (PIP)

This benefit has replaced Disability Living Allowance for adults. It provides financial help to people between 16 and 64 who have found it difficult to get about day-to-day for at least three months. These difficulties should be expected to last for at least the next nine months.

This benefit is not means tested, so you could be in receipt of this benefit regardless of your income or savings. If you have been turned down for a benefit, you may be able to appeal against that decision or ask for a review. This should be done within a certain time frame. This is a complicated process, so it is advisable to seek help from the above-mentioned sources.

Financial products

Some people have got financial products to cover them for a “rainy day”. Schemes like life assurance, critical illness and occupational pension. Since each of these schemes have different rules and operate in different ways, it is extremely important to get proper advice to find out about these policies and the best thing to do in your current situation.

There are a few sources of advice:

  • For a particular financial product; the provider of the product (insurance company, pensions scheme, etc.).
  • For advice about investment; an independent financial advisor (IFA).
  • For debt advice; independent, free organisations, such as Citizen Advice.
  • The Macmillan Cancer Support Line (Tel: 0808 8080000).

Being diagnosed with cancer might impact the conditions of buying insurance. Sometimes, people affected by cancer face higher premiums, special conditions or refusal when buying life insurance and some types of health insurance, such as travel insurance.

Since cancer is now considered as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, an insurer can treat a client with a disability less favourably if the disability increases the risk of claiming, but only if the assessment is based on relevant information from a source that is reasonable to rely on (statistical data and/or medical reports). Insurer decisions can be challenged, and then the insurer will have to provide evidence to show that the decision was based on the above-mentioned conditions.

For more information on what practical support you’re entitled to, download or order our ‘The Next Stage’ booklet here.

For further information on welfare benefits, please see our Know Your Rights Toolkit here.

If you would like to talk to a member of our team about benefits, please email advocacy@leukaemiacare.org.uk or call 08088 010 444, Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm.

Know your rights toolkit: Walfare benefits, Part 2 -

More information on benefits, disability and bereavement can be found in our Know Your Rights Toolkit, which is available to download on our website.

Download toolkit