When Joanne Moore’s mum was diagnosed with cervical cancer last year, it came as a big shock.
Her father was recovering from bladder cancer and the single mum from Whitburn, West Lothian, realised she would have to give up her job to care for both of them.
Luckily for Joanne, she decided to visit the Advice Shop and they pointed her in the direction of the Macmillan Information Point at Carmondean.
“I was quite emotional at the time and very upset,” she says. “It was fortunate because if I hadn’t gone to the job centre, I wouldn’t have known about the support offered by Macmillan.”
When Joanne visited the centre she spoke to a nurse who offered her counselling. She was also put in touch with Welfare Rights Officer Melanie Bunce who drew up an action plan showing what benefits she would be entitled to if she gave up her job as a community education worker.
Joanne had already been signed off work with anxiety following her mother’s diagnosis and after speaking to Melanie she made the decision to hand in her notice.
“I was in a lot of shock and I was quite confused,” says Joanne. “Melanie helped me fill in the forms for housing benefit and a carer’s allowance because I just couldn’t face them.
“She was very compassionate because at times I was crying and not making much sense.”
Melanie also visited Joanne’s parents, John and Helen, in their home to assess what benefits they were entitled to.
“She was absolutely fantastic with mum and dad. She got them attendance allowance and a mobility card and told them about other services that were available that we didn’t know about.
“They took to her instantly and she built up a rapport and trust with them.”
In total, the West Lothian Macmillan team helped Joanne and her family access nearly £400 a week in benefits as well as a one-off grant of £400 for Helen to pay for clothing due to weight loss and a new bed.
Helen died at the age of 72, less than a year after her diagnosis, and Joanne says that although she was concerned about the financial aspects of giving up her job, she doesn’t regret her decision.
“It wasn’t easy giving up my job but I’m glad I did because in the end we only had 11 months left with my mum. She took a secondary cancer and died in November.
“Because I had the right advice I was able to make a good choice. Having that time with my mum, although it was difficult, was the best time I have ever had.
“It’s not easy when you’re focused on your loved one to try to think of what financial support and benefits are available out there. It’s a world of confusion. It’s as if someone has switched off a light bulb.
“Melanie made life so much easier for us. I just can’t thank her enough. She was fantastic.”