Macmillan Cancer Support helped cancer patients in south-east London access nearly £4 million in specialist benefits in 2020.
The Macmillan Welfare Benefits Service, run in partnership with Citizens Advice Southwark, has a team of advisers who give financial and debt guidance to people living with cancer, including family and carers.
For many of those they help, a cancer diagnosis has left them struggling to work and pay bills. Patients may also have no previous experience of navigating the benefits system, or be unaware of what they are entitled to claim.
Despite the twin challenges of COVID-19 and lockdown, the team has helped 971 people in south-east London unlock a total of £3.9 million of specialist benefits.
The team also helped 176 people apply for one-off grants from Macmillan, totalling £58,000, to pay for everyday essentials including heating, or hospital travel costs.
This year, Macmillan announced it been given nearly £86,000 of funding from the charity to ensure the vital service continues until at least December 2021.
Research from Macmillan illustrates the precarious financial position a cancer diagnosis can bring, with one in two people living with cancer in London saying their finances are severely impacted by their illness.
Kymberly Goh, Macmillan’s welfare benefits team manager and and a senior adviser said: “Our service is really important for a patient’s cancer journey.
“Some people have never had to claim any benefits before they are diagnosed with cancer.
“It’s just such a minefield to navigate sometimes and having us there to support them gives them confidence.
“Others are vulnerable in other ways – maybe because of other health conditions or a language barrier.
“We’re there for all patients to check what they might be entitled to, help them with any forms and deal with any disputes that arise from the benefit claims.
“Patients should be able to focus on their health and not have to worry about whether they can afford to keep the heating on or how they might be able to fund their travel to the hospital for their next appointment.
“The pandemic has been pretty punishing for us all, but particularly for cancer patients.
“That’s why I’m so proud of everything the team’s achieved in the last twelve months on behalf of people living with cancer, despite the many challenges that COVID has thrown at us.
“We have continued to be there for our clients throughout, as COVID-19 could be the least of your worries if you can’t afford to put food on the table or heat your home.”
One person who benefitted from the service this year, who preferred to remain anonymous, spoke of the invaluable help they had received: “I can’t put into words how much it means to have someone helping with application forms and advising us regarding the financial help available to someone, who has been just diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“They really made us feel we were not alone.”
If you have been impacted by cancer, live in Southwark, Lewisham, Lambeth, Greenwich, Bexley, Bromley or Croydon and need financial advice, please contact your cancer nurse to be referred to the Macmillan Citizens Advice Service.
For further information you can contact the team by phone on 0207 732 5386 or email at Macmilan@citizensadvicesouthwark.org.uk.
For support, or to donate, visit: www.macmillan.org.uk