RECORD numbers of cancer patients are relying on charity grants for essentials such as clothing and heating.
More than 33,000 cancer patients were forced to rely on handouts from the charity in 2014 — a record high, Macmillan Cancer Support said yesterday.
The charity paid out around £9.9 million worth of grants to help people on low incomes with cancer.
Thousands of people struggle every year to cope with the financial cost of cancer. Many of them are unable to work or need special equipment, Macmillan said.
More than half of the cancer patients needed the cash for clothing and fuel bills, while more was needed to buy specialist equipment, stair lifts, new bedding and transport to and from hospital.
The charity said people with cancer often need extra clothes because of weight loss or gain, abdominal swelling, colostomy bags or special bras if they have had a mastectomy.
Cancer treatment also causes people to feel the cold more, which can lead to soaring fuel bills.
Overall, at least 120,000 people relied on Macmillan for financial advice and support, including navigating their way through the complicated benefits and tax credits system or receiving guidance on mortgage payments and pensions.
Macmillan Cancer Support head Lynda Thomas said: “The growing number of people with cancer turning to Macmillan with money worries is a stark reminder of the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis.”
She called on the government to reconsider its Welfare Reform and Work Bill, in which the benefits of cancer sufferers unable to work will be reduced by £30 a week, “or risk pushing the most vulnerable over the edge financially.”
Case study 1
Paul Burks, 56, from Essex, was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2010. In April this year he was told his cancer had returned.
“My loss of earnings was huge — I went from a three-figure income to £67 a week. We had to extend the mortgage and my wife had to take over all of it.
“I’ve not been able to work because of all the problems since my diagnosis and I’ve suffered from so many unexpected expenses. My wife often sits there with her calculator dealing with the bank. Cancer has a devastating impact not only your body but on your finances too.”
Case study 2
Shahid Jamal Shafi, 47, was diagnosed with rare skin cancer Kaposi’s Sarcoma last year. He took time off work and suffered financial hardship as a result.
Mr Shafi had a lot of problems claiming benefits, with complicated paperwork and delayed responses from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). He received benefits advice and a grant from Macmillan while he waited months for the DWP to finally grant the benefits he was entitled to.
Mr Shafi, who had never before claimed benefits, said the process was more unpleasant than the cancer itself.