In research published last week, Macmillan Cancer Support highlighted the vital support and benefits that many carers of people living with cancer are currently missing out on.
- Almost half of the carers reported they experienced mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression
- One in eight (13%) said they experienced physical health problems such as sleep and digestive problems
- One in seven (15%) reported financial issues such as spending more on things like travel to hospital or giving up work
- Carers of people with cancer provide an average of around 15 hours of help each week
- In the main, they offer emotional support, with around half helping with errands outside the house
- 20% saying their caring role affects their relationships
- 19% said it affected their working life
- 15% said it had an impact on their finances
Benefits advice is a key part of the service offered by Dimbleby Cancer Care Support and Information Services at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. The post of Benefits Advisor at the Dimbleby Cancer Care centre was first introduced on the advice of Professor Sheila Payne. The recent Welfare Benefit Annual Report for 2011 from Southwark Citizens Advice Bureau showed a record number of financial gains for cancer patients and their carers, despite the challenges faced by increased demand at the centre.
Fiona Crowe recently took over the post of Benefits Advisor at the Dimbleby Cancer Care centre, having previously worked as a Macmillan advisor. In 2011, a staggering £559,376.34 was obtained in benefits for cancer patients following advice at the centre. Advice was given in over 1,100 cases with 164 face to face consultations.
In one case, a single parent with advanced terminal cancer was found to be supporting her family of 3 children on £125 per week. She often went without food herself and was running up debts including bailiff action. Through discussion with the DCC funded Benefits Advisor she was able to secure increased payments of £330 per week through previously unclaimed benefits and received a backdated payment of £8000 which enabled her to clear her debts and help secure a future for her family.
The service offered at Guy’s and St Thomas’ is an essential part of the integrated cancer treatment service offered by the Hospital trust. For similar advice in other areas, Macmillan advises contacting your local authority through the Citizens Advice Bureau.
This kind of support and advice is crucial in helping those affected by cancer, improving quality of life for both patients and their carers.