Cancelled chemo, no savings and bills mounting up – where to get help

Tackling cancer, treatment side effects and financial worries can be a bewildering, frightening and isolating experience.

But, on the financial front, there are a number of channels people can access to help them deal with the monetary fallout triggered by a cancer diagnosis.

For many people, relying on the state or contacting a charity for help will seem alien and this in itself may even prevent some people from claiming valuable financial help. 

But, money woes do not go away on their own, so taking that first step of seeking help is vital and not something to be afraid of.

This is Money and Macmillan have outlined some of the main benefits and support channels people with cancer of other serious illnesses may wish to consider applying for. Other channels of support ma be available to you, but in all cases, eligibility criteria are likely to apply:

Benefits and other support

Statutory Sick Pay: SSP pays for 28 weeks off work at a rate of £95.85 per week. This kicks in if you have been off sick for more than four days and is paid to you by your employer.

Personal Independence Payment: This benefit replaces the old style Disability Living Allowance for adults (this is still in place for those under the age of 16) and is worth between £23.60 and £151.40 per week. Couples may receive a higher amount.

It is set up to cover those have difficulty with daily tasks such as managing medicines or preparing meals. It covers both physical and mental capabilities.

PIP is tax-free and you could qualify for this whether you are working through treatment or are unable to, as long as you are between 16-64.

It is divided into the Daily Living and Mobility components and the amount you receive will depend on whether you qualify for the standard or enhanced rates. 

Anyone who has a terminal or non-curable diagnosis will automatically qualify for the enhanced rate. People who are terminally ill can also get a PIP more quickly than others. Claims cannot be backdated, so it is important to claim as soon as possible if you think you are eligible.

Employment and Support Allowance: You can apply for ESA if you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work.

You can’t get ESA if you are claiming SSP and/or Jobseeker’s Allowance at the same time.

For the first 13 weeks during an assessment period anyone under 25 gets up to £58.90 a week, everyone else gets up to £74.35. 

Next there is a Work Capability Assessment to sort you into one of two groups – the Work-Related Activity Group or the Support Group.

Those who are unwell or disabled typically qualify for the Support category, which pays a slightly higher rate at up to £113.55 a week and won’t require you to attend any meetings to get you back into work.

Universal Credit: This is a payment to help with your living costs. It’s paid monthly – or twice a month for some people in Scotland.

You may be able to get it if you’re on a low income, out of work or you cannot work. It is available to people over 18 but under the state pension age.

Universal credit is replacing a number of benefits, including income-related ESA, Housing Benefit and Tax Credits. Use the online checker to find out if the switch over to Universal Credit will affect you.

The basic level amount is £342.72 for a single person over 25 or £409.89 for a single person over 25 per month. You may get more money on top of your standard allowance if you’re eligible.

Attendance Allowance: If you aged over the state pension age the alternative to PIP is Attendance Allowance. It is worth either £59.70 or £89.15 per week.

To be eligible you must have a physical disability or illness which requires extra help to look after yourself.

Pension credit: This is paid to those over state pension age dependent on your income, and is divided into two halves.

The Guarantee Credit part is a basic rate to top up your income to a minimum threshold of £173.75 for single people and £265.20 for couples. 

Savings Credit is paid to those who have saved towards their retirement, if they or their partner reached state pension age before April 6 2016. It is worth an extra £13.97 per week for single people and £15.62 for a couple.

Anyone with a severe disability, certain housing costs or who is a carer may be eligible for a higher rate. 

–  Income tax refund: You may be able to get a tax refund if your incomes falls or you have to give up work because of a serious illness. 

Your employer may be able to organise this. You can also apply for a tax refund online or contact HMRC on 0300 200 3000. 

Help with council tax or rates mortgage interest and bills   

According to Macmillan, there are other benefits, loans and grants available to help with the costs of housing.

Local council tax reduction schemes can help towards the cost of your council tax if you are on a low income. If you live in Northern Ireland, you may be able to apply for help to pay your rates bill.

If you own your home, you may be able to apply for a loan from the government to help pay your mortgage interest payments.

You may also be able to get help if you need to adapt, repair or improve your home. The help available depends on where you live in the UK.

Macmillan has a handy page online which outlines all the help available to cancer patients struggling with mortgage repayments, rental costs or bill troubles. 

Healthcare help, travel costs and grants

People with cancer may be eligible to get help with prescription costs, wigs, fabric supports, dental treatment and eye treatments, Macmillan says. 

In England, prescriptions are free for people with cancer. If you need prescriptions for anything related to cancer or its effects, you can apply for a medical exemption certificate. You need to collect an FP92A form from your GP surgery. This lasts for five years and can be renewed if you are still eligible. 

If you need special equipment or aids to help you live at home, you may be able to get what you need for free. If you pay for your own nursing home charges, you may also be entitled to financial help.

Travelling to and from hospital can be expensive. You may be able to get help with the cost of going to hospital for treatment. 

As well as potentially getting help with prescription, travel and other health-related costs, Macmillan also offers grants, which are ‘small, discretionary payments to help people with the extra costs that cancer can cause.’ They are usually a one-off payment. They are for people who have a low level of income and savings. Other grants and loans may also be available. 

Means tested  Income independent Over pension age 
Personal Independence Payment  Income-related Employment Support Allowance Attendance Allowance 
Disability Living Allowance (under 16) Tax Credits  Pension Credit 
Contribution based Employment Support Allowance  Housing Benefit   
  Council Tax Reduction   
  Support for Mortgage Interest   
  Statutory Sick Pay   
  Income Support   

Anyone with cancer in need of extra financial support can contact the Macmillan Support Line on  0808 808 00 00. It is open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm.

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