By Katie Austin
Campaigns Officer, Macmillan Cancer Relief
If you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with cancer, probably the last thing on your mind is the state of your finances.
Having cancer can damage your families finances
But having cancer can be expensive in ways you probably had not imagined.
As your treatment begins, you may find you have to give up work.
Your partner or a relative or friend may also have to reduce their working hours in order to care for you.
You could well face extra expense to pay for transport to and from hospital.
In addition, many hospitals levy parking charges for patients and visitors.
While at home, you may well have to meet increased heating bills and new clothes to cope with weight loss or gain.
Lack of knowledge about what is available and the sheer difficulty of navigating the complex system all contributes to poor benefits take up amongst people affected by cancer
There is help available, some of it in the form of state benefits, but uptake of these by cancer patients is patchy.
Our research suggests that £126.5m in just one disability benefit is going unclaimed by people diagnosed with terminal cancer in the UK.
This is just the tip of the iceberg - millions more may be going unclaimed by people with cancer who do not have a terminal diagnosis.
Currently, not all cancer patients are offered specialist benefits advice following their diagnosis.
This lack of knowledge about what is available and the sheer difficulty of navigating the complex system all contribute to poor benefits take up amongst people affected by cancer.
There are a range of benefits and other forms of financial assistance available that you may be entitled to:
- Disability Living Allowance is a non means-tested benefit for people under 65 who have care and mobility needs
- Attendance Allowance is a non means-tested benefit for people over 65 who have care or mobility needs
- Carer's Allowance is a benefit you may be eligible for if you spend over 35 hours a week caring for someone
- The Hospital Travel Costs Scheme is a means-tested benefit for people attending hospital for NHS treatment
- The NHS Low Income Scheme is a means-tested scheme entitling you to free prescriptions and help with the cost of dental treatment, wigs and fabric supports, eyesight tests and glasses, and fares to hospital
- Prescription Prepayment Certificates can be bought if you do not qualify for free prescriptions and will save you money if you need more than five prescriptions in four months or 14 items in one year.
For more information on whether you are entitled to any of the benefits above and how to claim visit the Department for Work and Pensions website: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/lifeevent/benefits/.