Macmillan Wales issues over £3.7 million to people struggling with the financial hardships of cancer
Macmillan Wales has issued over £3.7 million in grants, to help support people with cancer who are struggling to afford basic human essentials like heating their homes.
The charity has revealed that since 2012:
- By far the largest area of grant support - around £1.3 million - has been spent on helping people with cancer to heat their homes.
- Around £3,776,000 in grants has been used to help relieve the huge financial pressure that can be felt by people with cancer.
- 10,320 people with cancer had to seek charitable grant support just to cover essential costs like travelling to their cancer treatments.
- The demand for grant support has risen steadily over recent years and continues to grow.
As Wales enters the cold winter months, Macmillan is voicing significant concern that so many people with cancer need financial support just to keep their homes warm.
The charity warns that cancer patients often feel the cold more than usual due to the side effects of their treatment like weight loss or reduced movement and circulation.
Financial pressures can leave people with little choice but to spend their days trying to manage their diagnosis and recover from treatment, while struggling to stay warm.
People with cancer can face an average of £570 a month in lost income or increased costs, meaning money can quickly become a source of worry for anyone who receives a cancer diagnosis.
During 2016 alone, Macmillan Wales issued around £1,077,500 of grant support to 2681 people affected by cancer.
Around £376,000 was spent on heating, while £227,000 was spent on clothing due to the significant changes in weight or body shape which can follow cancer treatments.
The total figure spent in 2016, to help people who are struggling to meet urgent costs related to cancer, is around 90% or £550,000 more than the level of grant support issued five years previously in 2012.
Inflation, the rising cost of living and complex welfare reforms are all thought to be contributing to an increased demand for charitable support.
Macmillan Wales’ nationwide network of welfare benefits advisers is working to reduce financial anxiety for people with cancer by offering advice, and helping people to access the financial support they so desperately need.
Shirley Melly is a Macmillan Welfare Benefits Adviser working in the Macmillan Unit of Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr, and she says:
“Cancer just isn’t something you can plan or save for, and so many people who come to see me have nothing more to support them than statutory sick pay.
“When it comes to covering the cost of travelling to your cancer treatment, eating healthy food to help your body recover, or affording the basic human comfort of putting your heating on, £89 of statutory sick pay simply doesn’t go very far.
“There is a very good reason why most of the grant applications we receive are from people who need help to cover their heating costs – not just through the winter and Christmas period, but all year round.
“I can think of nothing worse than trying to recover from surgery, chemo or radiotherapy while shivering at home because you are too worried about money to put the heating on for a little bit of physical comfort.
“The emotional and additional physical stress caused by money worries, at a time when many people are already at their most vulnerable, simply doesn’t bear thinking about.
“I feel privileged that through providing benefits advice, and grants where needed, that I can play a part in relieving just a little of it.”
Susan Morris, Head of Services for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales, said:
“We talk to so many people who are facing a really tough time financially because of their cancer.
“Even when living with a cancer diagnosis, there are still heating, food and travel bills to pay, and for many people these costs can increase at the same time their income may have reduced or stopped altogether.
“Being able to offer a Macmillan grant, where people are eligible, can be a real lifeline. It’s just one way we can take a little bit of the pressure off and help people to focus on their physical recovery.”
Macmillan Wales has been campaigning for people with cancer to have financial information and support since launching its Counting the Cost of Cancer campaign in 2012.
Everyone has a part to play in making sure the financial shock of cancer doesn’t turn into a crisis, and the charity wants every cancer patient to be routinely signposted to welfare benefits advice from the earliest stage of their diagnosis.
If you are worried about your finances because of cancer, please call the Macmillan Support line free on 0808 808 00 00, or visit the ‘in your area’ section of www.macmillan.org.uk to find your nearest Macmillan welfare benefits adviser.