The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Macmillan Citizens Advice service has helped over 2,500 local people affected by cancer access £7,497,255 in financial gains during their latest year of service (October 2015-September 2016). The project – a partnership between Macmillan Cancer Support and Citizens Advice – has been running since 2009, providing vital welfare benefits advice to people with cancer, their carers and family members.
Sue Alford, Service Manager at the Hampshire Macmillan Citizens Advice Service said; ‘This has been our best ever year in terms of financial gains secured for clients. We also had a 20% increase on the previous year in the number of clients helped, demonstrating the growing need for assistance with finance and the complexities of the benefits system when facing cancer.
‘Results from our survey of professional medical staff evidenced that we provide a vital link between nurses and patients, saving clinical staff an average of 2.5 hours per patient per week so that they can focus on the provision of care.’
The service is open to people affected by cancer who live or receive treatment in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, including the cities of Southampton and Portsmouth. A team of caseworkers based out of local Citizens Advice offices across the area provide confidential welfare benefits advice and support to help with the costs of cancer – often made more difficult because of a loss of income due to treatment. Previous research by Macmillan showed that cancer has an average monthly cost of £570 for the vast majority (83%) of cancer patients.
As well as providing over the phone advice, the team provide face-to-face outreach in hospitals and hospices throughout Hampshire – including home and ward visits.
52-year-old Piotr Malinowski lives in New Milton. He was recently diagnosed with Oesophageal cancer which has spread, and is receiving treatment and care from Bournemouth Hospital and Oakhaven Hospice. Recently, he moved into his friend’s rented bedsit with her, so she can help to care for him.
Piotr said; ‘The bedsit is very cramped, and the steps are very steep which makes it difficult for me, and for Anna who suffers from chronic rheumatoid arthritis. Since my caseworker Marilyn has started helping us, we have been awarded high priority status so we will hopefully be allocated somewhere more suitable to live very soon.
‘I was leasing a car which cost me £200 every month, but after my diagnosis I had to go onto sick pay and I couldn’t afford it any more. Marilyn spoke to the company and arranged for me to return the car without having to pay a £4,000 penalty for ending the contract early. She helped me to get enhanced rate Personal Independence Payment and helped me to use the mobility element of this to get a car with the Motability scheme – the only cost of this car is petrol. Marilyn also helped Anna to apply for PIP and now she gets the standard rate. Our weekly income has been increased by £190.
‘Marilyn has helped us in so many ways; my whole life has changed since I was diagnosed with cancer. I have lived in the UK for 9 years and have always worked, so I didn’t know anything about claiming benefits and wouldn’t know where to start. The benefits I’ve been awarded mean that I’m able to get to hospital for my treatment, and don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay the bills.’
This vital service has recently secured further funding from Macmillan until December 2018, which will ensure that no one in Hampshire will have to face the financial impact of cancer alone. The telephone helpline is available from 9am to 1pm, Mon to Fri on 0344 847 7727. Alternatively email email@example.com.
For support, information or if you have any questions about cancer, call Macmillan Cancer Support free on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk.