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Cancer can have a significant impact on your personal finances. If you want to carry on working, take some time off or close your business, you might like to think about the issues below.
It may help to contact an independent financial adviser to get advice on your financial options. A qualified adviser can assess your individual situation and recommend what’s best for you. They may charge a fee for the service, but it could be a good investment at this time. To find out more about contacting an independent financial adviser, contact Unbiased|.
As with business finances, the first step is to make sure you have as much money coming in as possible.
If you have any private insurance cover for income replacement, critical illness, life insurance, loan, mortgage or credit card protection, you should speak to your insurance company or independent financial adviser as soon as possible. These could be important sources of income for you. If you need money urgently, you could talk to an independent financial adviser about your options. For example, you may be able to take out a loan against your life insurance policy, sell the policy or surrender it.
However, you may find it difficult to take out a new life insurance policy for a few years after you have had cancer. Bear this in mind when planning your finances.
You can get advice from your insurer or financial adviser about any relevant conditions of your life insurance or pension plans, such as being able to take a break from payments or a waiver of premium. A waiver of premium benefit means that the insurance company will pay the premium for you for a set period of time (for example, until you are fit to work or until the end of the policy).
You may be entitled to certain state benefits. There are specific rules for calculating the income of self-employed people, and the benefits you can claim may be different from those an employee can claim. Depending on your particular circumstances, the benefits you may be able to claim include:
If you are self-employed and unable to work due to illness or disability, you may be entitled to claim Employment and Support Allowance. You must have paid the correct level of national insurance contributions, though.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to get more money if you qualify for income and savings-related (means-tested) Employment and Support Allowance. People who haven’t paid the relevant national insurance contributions may still qualify for Employment and Support Allowance under the means-tested route. You may qualify in this way if you have savings of less than £16,000 and if your income is below a certain amount.
This benefit is for people under 65 who have difficulty walk-ing or looking after themselves (or both). You may also be eligible if you need someone to look out for you, for example, because you have a mental health condition.
To qualify, you need to have had difficulty walking or looking after yourself for at least three months before making a claim. These difficulties should be expected to last for at least the next six months. You do not need to have a carer to qualify for this benefit.
This benefit is for people aged 65 or over who have difficulty looking after themselves. You may qualify if you need help with personal care, for example, getting out of bed, having a bath or dressing yourself. It’s based on the amount of care you need, not the care you receive. You must have needed care for at least six months before making a claim, unless you have been diagnosed with terminal cancer. You do not need to have a carer to qualify for this benefit.
Terminal illness If you are terminally ill, you can apply for Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance under the special rules. Under these rules, you don’t need to meet the three and six month qualifying conditions mentioned above. Your claim will be dealt with quickly and you will receive the benefit at the highest rate.
Pension Credit is a means-tested benefit for people who have reached the minimum qualifying age. This is rising in line with the increase in the State Pension age for women.
The State Pension age for women is increasing to become equal with the State Pension age for men (65) by November 2018. From December 2018, the State Pension age for both men and women will start increasing in stages, reaching 66 by October 2020.
You can use the online State Pension age calculator| to find out whether you are eligible.
Pension Credit guarantees a weekly income to everyone who qualifies. This part of Pension Credit is called guarantee credit. There’s also a part called the savings credit, which you may be entitled to if you are over 65 and have made some financial plans for your retirement, for example savings or a second pension.
You can claim Pension Credit if you are working, although your earnings will affect how much benefit you receive.
Pension Credit can also include an amount towards your mortgage interest payments and other housing costs.
This is a means-tested benefit for people on a low income, aged between 16 and the age at which they can claim Pension Credit. It’s intended to cover your basic living expenses.
Income Support is for people who do not have to sign on as being unemployed, such as carers and single parents with young children.
The Social Fund is a government fund that makes payments to people in need. This includes Cold Weather Payments, which are paid automatically to people receiving certain benefits when the temperature drops below 0°C for seven days in a row.
The Social Fund is run by the Department for Work and Pensions. It’s designed to help people pay for living costs that aren’t covered by their benefit payments. To apply for a loan or grant, contact your local Jobcentre or social security, or jobs and benefits office in Northern Ireland.
Other grants are available from various sources, including occupational funds and grants from utility companies (gas, electricity and water companies). Most major energy providers offer free or reduced-price insulation to vulnerable customers, including people with certain medical conditions. For more information contact our cancer support specialists.
To find out more about the benefits you may be entitled to, or if you have a dispute about a claim, you can contact our cancer support specialists or your local Citizens Advice|. You may need to make an appointment with Citizens Advice. You can also get information from the Benefit Enquiry Line| on 0800 882 200.
The Benefit Enquiry Line has some advisers who speak other languages and can also arrange to give information through interpreters.
The hospital social worker or benefits adviser can give you advice about sources of financial help. The guide to grants for individuals in need is a book that gives details of all the trusts and organisations that provide financial support. It may be available from your local library.
For further information about benefits and financial support please call our cancer support specialists. You can also view our financial information|, which discusses the financial help that may be available to you.
Some of the advice on business debt| may also apply to your personal finances.
If you’re concerned about your debts, it’s best to discuss them with an independent financial adviser. You can also call our cancer support specialists for information on managing your personal finances, including debt. Other organisations such as the Consumer Credit Counselling Service|, Citizens Advice| and National Debtline| (you can also talk to their sister agency, Business Debtline|) can give you free, impartial advice.
To get the most out of your discussion with an independent financial adviser, it’s helpful to have the following information with you: your national insurance number; details of any income, benefits, pensions, savings; and details of your expenses, such as your mortgage or rent.
To get the most out of your discussion, it is helpful to have the following information with you when you talk to an adviser: your national insurance number, details of any income, benefits, pensions, savings; and expenses, such as your mortgage or rent.
Read Managing your debt: a self-help guide for some basic information and practical tips for dealing with your debts.
It can help to write down what your financial situation is and how you plan to manage your finances. You can use the checklist below to sort out the necessary steps, and note down some people who can assist you. You can also download a blank checklist [PDF, 179kb]| .
Task or problem
Financial problems can feel overwhelming. It’s best to be open and honest with your partner or family if you can, even though it may not be easy to talk to them about money problems. If you need someone to talk to, there are many people at hand. In addition to calling our cancer support specialists,| you can also contact the Samaritans|. Talking through your worries with someone who understands can really help.
For further information about benefits and financial support please ring us on 0808 808 00 00. You can also download our booklet Help with the cost of cancer - England, Scotland and Wales [PDF, 844kb]|, which provides information about different kinds of financial help that might be available to you.
Content last reviewed: 1 April 2012
Next planned review: 2014
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
See an explanation of the support that might be available if you're affected by cancer.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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