It is hard enough to be told that you have cancer, but to then have to worry about your finances on top, can make it a really difficult time to have to face. With cancer treatments improving every day, many people who are diagnosed are treated successfully and continue on to have a long and fulfilling life. However, in the meantime, you may need to give up work to receive your treatment and this is where financial worries arise. Going to a hospital to receive your treatment can also be costly, especially if your treatment is from Monday to Friday for several weeks. The cost of petrol, parking, food and snacks while you are away from home and high energy bills from being at home more all affect your income.
There are several forms of help you can apply for if your income goes down but they are split into two categories – charity grants or government benefits. All grants and benefits are means tested but can really help when you need it most. Macmillan Cancer Support, Leukaemia Care, Brain Tumour UK and Charis Grants Ltd are all charities which offer financial help and will initially liaise with your consultant or cancer nurse before agreeing to help. Your first port of call when considering this route is to speak to your team at the hospital and ask them the best way to start a claim. They will be well versed in this and are best to advise you. Charity grants, which are usually one-off payments, are also a good way of clearing any outstanding debt you may have and now cannot pay off.
The other route your should explore is government benefits which can help by giving you a monthly amount straight into your bank account, similarly to a salary. These again are means tested but there are so many different types of benefit available that you could well be eligible for one of more. The Citizens Advice Bureau is a great initial starting point and they can point you in the right direction as is the Benefits Enquiry Line on 0800 882 200. You can also visit the www.gov.uk/benefits-adviser which allows you to see what you might be entitled to by answering a series of questions online.
If your cancer stops you living a normal life at home and stops you doing things such as cooking and washing yourself you may be entitled to a benefit called Personal Independence Payment which replaced Disability Living Allowance in June 2013 (although is still DLA for children). There are certain stipulations to the benefit but the aim is to help you carry on living a normal life without suffering any financial loss.
If your income is below a certain level you may be entitled to Income Support or tax credits. Both supplement your income and could bridge the gap between your earnings now and your earnings before your diagnosis and treatment. You may also be able to claim sick pay from your current job and should look into this straight after diagnosis. Do not consider handing in your notice due to cancer treatment as there are laws allowing you time off and the chance to return to your job if you wish.
Finally, one form of financial help, which many forget about, comes in the form of critical illness plans which may have been taken out at the same time as a large loan or mortgage or simply as a standalone product. Cancer is covered in nearly all critical illness policies and can pay out a few thousand to substantially larger sums at the advent of a cancer diagnosis. However, it is up to you to remember to claim, the banks will not prompt you, so dig out your paperwork and, if you think you may be eligible to claim, contact your bank immediately.
This is a Guest Post from Cancer Research UK, who got in touch because of fellow local blogger Emma who is fighting cancer and raising awareness. I received no financial compensation. It is a topic close to my heart.