Patients using savings and borrowing to cope with financial impact of cancer
Cancer patients are struggling to make ends meet, suggests a new survey from Macmillan Cancer Support.
The charity's poll of 1,495 cancer patients found that more than two thirds (70%) had been affected financially by their diagnosis, through lost income and rising costs such as those incurred by travelling to hospital.
One in six (17%) of those financially affected said they had had to reduce spending on everyday items such as food, while 7% are scared of losing their home. Nearly a third (29%) of those financially affected have spent all or some of their savings, and nearly one in ten (9%) have borrowed money to cover the additional costs of cancer.
In total, more than two fifths (43%) are anxious as a result of their financial situation.
Macmillan is warning that the financial prospects of cancer patients may be worse under Government reforms. The Welfare Reform Bill, currently being scrutinised in the House of Lords, includes a proposal to limit the payment of employment support allowance (ESA) to one year, for those claimants allocated to the work-related activity group under work capability assessments. After 12 months these claimants will be means-tested and a claimant whose partner works more than 24 hours or earns £149 a week will lose all of their benefit. The charity argues that many people living with cancer will need longer than 12 months in order to return to work.
Under another proposal, cancer patients needing immediate financial help to cover extra costs following their diagnosis will have to wait six months instead of three to get the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which replaces Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
Ciarán Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "Cancer is an expensive disease to live with, but this research shows just how close to the breadline many cancer patients really are. While we understand the benefits system is in need of reform, certain changes in the Welfare Reform Bill could have catastrophic effects on many families who are already struggling. We know many Lords oppose these proposals and hope they support cancer patients as the Bill makes its way through Parliament."
Last year income protection provider Unum reported that claims from employees with cancer were up 44% over the course of the decade, resulting in a growing demand for tailored rehabilitation services. Cancer accounted for 19% of claims in 2009 and two-thirds of these claimants referred after more than six months of absence eventually returned to work.
Check out our guide to rehabilitation, including rehabilitation for cancer patients, here.