The true cost of cancer

Cancer can have a hugely negative impact on someone’s finances. Often they are forced to give up work while facing increased costs like travel to hospital.

We set up our benefits service in 2003 after research found cancer patients were missing out on millions of pounds because they had no idea how to claim – despite evidence that showed money was the second biggest worry for cancer patients after pain.

Many patients never had claimed benefits before and trying to navigate the system and people found that trying to fill in long complex forms while dealing with the physical and emotional problems cancer brings was very difficult.

Over the last 13 years, we’ve helped more than 112,000 Scottish cancer patients and their carers claim government benefits, grants and supported them to deal with debts.

Altogether we have put £285m in government benefits in the pockets of cancer patients in Scotland. This huge figure – well over a quarter of a billion pounds – equates to a financial gain of £2,500 for each person helped by each of Macmillan’s 22 benefit services across the country.

But despite the huge reach of the services, we think there is still work to be done to make sure everyone gets help.

Only three years ago, research found 80% of cancer patients in Scotland were £420 a month worse off after diagnosis. And it is clear that some people are still slipping through the cracks and are missing out on benefits they desperately need simply because they don’t know help is available.

The cancer plan published by the Scottish Government last week promises every cancer patient will be offered a holistic needs assessment, which includes an assessment of their financial needs.

Whilst this is great news, we need every political party in Scotland pledge that if they get into power after the May elections they will follow through on this promise as a matter of urgency.

Email your election candidates for the Scottish Parliament vote on May 5 and ask them that if they get into power, they’ll make sure every cancer patient is offered a full assessment of all their needs and directed to the right support services.

Macmillan’s benefits services are offered in partnership with local authorities and Citizens Advice Bureaus. The Scottish Government funds the operation of the Macmillan services within the five cancer centres across Scotland.