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Should the Government recognise that cancer can be “financially crippling”?

04 September 2015

A leading cancer charity has said that the Government should recognise that a cancer diagnosis can be “financially crippling”.

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Dr Fran Woodward, Director of Policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, has said that ministers should recognise this fact in their new benefits reform. He said: “Any changes made to the benefits system must properly recognise the support that people need when they are ill. A cancer diagnosis can often be financially crippling and hit someone when they are at their most vulnerable, many will face additional costs or have to give up work to undergo cancer treatment.”

The cost of cancer

According to a report made by think-tank Demos, four out of five cancer patients are hit with an average cost of £570 a month. This is caused through an increase of expenditure on things like travel and loss of income for having to give up work as a result of their illness.

This places huge financial burdens on patients and their families, and is a growing issue that needs to be addressed.

The physical and emotional impact of cancer is hard enough without the additional burden of money worries. It can be difficult to work and earn money when you are ill, and that is when the financial impact of cancer can hit.You can lose your income.

Your insurers might not cover your loss of income as cancer is an illness, not an accident – people can lose everything without the right support.

It can be a very scary time, you may not know what the future holds for you and your loved ones – there is a fear of the unknown.

Coping with an asbestos-related lung cancer

Unfortunately, asbestos-related lung cancers and mesothelioma often affect those who are most vulnerable. Older people in retirement who might only have a small pension to rely on can be hit the hardest.

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Asbestos exposure has affected men and women from skilled and semi-skilled labouring jobs that did not traditionally pay big money. Often, they might already be struggling to make ends meet, or may have been looking forward to a comfortable retirement after working for all of their lives. They may not have a surplus of savings that would see them through a cancer that they did not expect. It is not unheard of for people to have to sell their property to pay for much needed cancer care.

As well as having to cope with the fear and anxiety of a diagnosis of an asbestos-related lung cancer or mesothelioma brings; you also have to work out how to manage practically. There may be money matters that you have to sort out. You may need information about financial support, such as benefits and grants.

You may have to figure out who to tell that you have cancer, and how to find the words to tell them. You may also have family members to think about, such as your children and grandchildren.

Remember that you don’t have to sort everything out at once. It may take some time to deal with each issue. Make sure to ask for help if you feel at any point that you need it. Your doctor or specialist will know who you should contact to get help. They can put you in touch with people specially trained in supporting those with cancer.

Compensation and claiming benefits

Asbestos-related lung cancer sufferers may be able to take legal action to claim compensation for exposure to asbestos. This is not about blame or a claims culture. It is about what is right. You have worked hard all of your life and you are owed a financial peace of mind so you can meet your own needs and prepare for your family’s future.

You may need to get help to investigate your eligibility and apply for important benefits available to people who have been exposed to asbestos. These benefits include:

  • The Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB), which helps people who are ill or disables from an accident or disease caused by work
  • Pneumoconiosis Etc. (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979 could help some people if their ex employer no longer exists
  • Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment covers a person who was exposed to asbestos in the UK, where no payment has been made for a civil claim under the 1979 Act
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are there to assist those with long term ill health

Your doctor will have come across claims for mesothelioma compensation and benefits before, so they should be able to give you advice and will be able to provide evidence supporting your claim.

Further reading

Macmillan: Benefits and other financial support

What is mesothelioma?

What is asbestos?

How do I deal with the stress of being diagnosed with asbestosis?

What Government benefits are available to people who are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease?


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