Financial support if you are working and have cancer
If you need to take time off work during treatment, you may be eligible for some of the benefits and allowances.
As benefits change from time to time, it’s a good idea to get help from an experienced benefits adviser. To speak to one, call the free Macmillan Support Line, or you can search for a support organisation.
Some people may try to continue working during treatment, but still need to take a few days or weeks off. This may be as one period of sick leave, or as a few days every month for several months.
Some people choose or need to stop working throughout their treatment. This could be for a period of weeks, months or even years. When deciding whether to carry on working or to take the whole time off sick, you may like to think about the issues and financial considerations in the rest of this section.
Whatever you decide to do, it may help to contact Macmillan’s Financial Guidance Service. They can help you understand the options available to you through any insurance policies you hold. For example, you may have policies that cover you for income replacement, life and critical illness cover, or loan and mortgage payments.
They can also give you information about other conditions that might apply to any insurance policies you hold. For example, Waiver of Premium benefit allows you to take a break from payments until you’re fit to return to work.
It may also help to contact a financial adviser to get advice on your financial options. Financial advisers can assess your individual situation and recommend the best course of action. Ask family and friends if they can recommend someone, or try the Personal Finance Society or Unbiased.
If you’d like help finding a suitable independent financial adviser or understanding the information you might need to provide to your insurance company, then our Financial Guidance Service can help you.
If you’re an employee and off work sick, you can usually get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks. If you earn an average of £109 a week (around £472 a month) or more in 2013–14, your employer must, by law, give you Statutory Sick Pay. You can get Statutory Sick Pay after you’ve been sick for four days in a row, including weekends, bank holidays and days you don’t normally work.
Statutory Sick Pay is only paid for the days that you’d normally work for your employer under your employment contract.
After 28 weeks of Statutory Sick Pay (or before then if you can’t get Statutory Sick Pay because you haven’t earned enough), you may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance. For more information, visit gov.uk if you live in England, Scotland or Wales, or nidirect.gov.uk if you live in Northern Ireland.
Many employers run their own sick pay scheme with more generous payments and terms than the statutory minimum. Check your employment contract or speak to your manager or the human resources department at your work to find out.
Some employers may also require a self-certification form when you’re off work for less than seven days. You can get these forms from your employer.
Statement of fitness for work (fit note)
If you’re ill and not able to work for more than a few days, remember to ask your GP for a statement of fitness for work (often called a fit note) to cover the period of your illness.
If you’re in hospital, ask your doctor or nurse for a fit note to cover the time that you’re an inpatient. This will be necessary if you need to claim a benefit. You may need to have a medical assessment to see whether you’re eligible to claim.
Help if you’re unable to work or on a low income
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Employment and Support Allowance
This benefit provides financial help to people who are unable to work because of their illness or disability. It also provides personalised support to those who are able to work. There are two different types of Employment and Support Allowance: contribution-based and income-related (means-tested). People may get either or both, depending on their national insurance contribution record and their income and savings.
Between October 2013 and 2017, income-related Employment and Support Allowance will be replaced by Universal Credit (see below). Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance will stay the same.
Employment and Support Allowance may be paid at a basic rate of up to £71.70 for the first 13 weeks of the claim. During this time, unless you’re terminally ill or have claimed before in the previous 12 weeks, you may need to take part in a work capability assessment. This involves filling in and sending back a questionnaire about how your illness or disability affects your ability to complete everyday tasks.
Your doctor may also be asked to complete a report. This evidence will be considered by an approved healthcare professional, who may recommend you attend a face-to-face assessment if more information is needed about your condition.
If the work capability assessment shows that your illness or disability limits your ability to work, you’ll be placed into one of two groups: the support group or the work-related activity group.
If you’re receiving, waiting for, or recovering from any kind of chemotherapy or radiotherapy, you’ll be treated as unable to work or to undertake any work-related activity. You’ll therefore satisfy the work capability assessment for entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance and be placed in the support group.
If you still qualify for Employment and Support Allowance after 13 weeks, you’ll enter the main phase of the benefit. If your illness or disability has a severe effect on your ability to work, you’ll be placed in the support group and you won’t have to undertake work-related activities. An additional payment of £34.80 will be paid to anyone in the support group.
If your ability to work is limited, but not severely so, you’ll be placed in the work-related activity group, and you’ll have to attend six work-focused interviews. A smaller additional payment of £28.45 will be paid to anyone in this group.
The amount of time a person can receive contributory-based Employment and Support Allowance in the work-related activity group is limited to 12 months. After 12 months, the benefit will stop unless you claim and qualify for income-related Employment and Support Allowance (Universal Credit since October 2013) or you request to be placed in, and are accepted for, the support group.
If you think this may affect you, speak to a welfare rights adviser as soon as possible.
If you’re self-employed, you can claim contributory-based Employment and Support Allowance as long as you’ve paid the correct level of national insurance contributions.
You may be able to get more money if you qualify for income-related Employment and Support Allowance (Universal Credit since October 2013), depending on your circumstances.
To claim in England, Scotland or Wales, call Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688, textphone 0800 023 4888.To claim in Northern Ireland, call the Department for Social Development on 0800 085 6318.
Universal Credit is a new single payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income. It’s expected that Universal Credit will be introduced in Northern Ireland, but not until spring 2014. In England, Scotland and Wales, it will gradually replace the following benefits between October 2013 and 2017:
To claim Universal Credit, you need to:
be 18 or over (or 16 or 17 in certain cases)
be under State Pension age
live in the UK
not be in education
accept a claimant commitment.
If you have a partner, you’ll need to make a joint claim for Universal Credit. If one of you doesn’t meet the requirements, they won’t be included in the amount of Universal Credit you get, but both of your savings, income and earnings will be taken into account.
The claimant commitment sets out your responsibilities in terms of your Universal Credit award. It includes work-related requirements. However, there are groups who won’t be required to demonstrate that they’re working, preparing for work or looking for work.
Universal Credit is made up of a standard allowance and five additional elements, which may be paid monthly depending on your circumstances.
Contact a Macmillan welfare rights adviser for more information about Universal Credit and the five additional elements.
Help if you have care needs
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Personal Independence Payment
This is a benefit for people aged 16–64 who have care or mobility needs. It replaces Disability Living Allowance (see below).
In England, Scotland and Wales, this change has already started to happen. In Northern Ireland, Personal Independence Payment won’t be introduced until at least spring 2014.
There are many similarities between the two benefits. In particular, Personal Independence Payment has two components: a daily living component and a mobility component.
There are some key differences though. New claims will normally be started over the phone, and then a personalised form will be posted to you to complete. Personal Independence Payment claims will include an assessment of individual needs by a health professional – most people will have a face-to-face consultation as part of their claim. Awards will also be reviewed regularly, based on how likely it is that your condition or disability will change.
Personal Independence Payment provides help towards some of the extra costs arising from a health condition or disability. It’s based on how a person’s condition affects them, not on the condition they have.
To get Personal Independence Payment, you must be 16–64 and satisfy a daily living and/or mobility activities test for three months before claiming, and be likely to continue to satisfy this test for at least another nine months. The test includes activities such as how well you can move around, and your ability to prepare food, wash, bathe and dress yourself.
You can receive Personal Independence Payment whether you’re in or out of work, and receiving it doesn’t normally reduce other benefits – in some cases your other benefits may actually increase.
Disability Living Allowance
This benefit is for people under 65 who have difficulty walking or looking after themselves (or both). In England, Scotland and Wales, it started to be replaced by Personal Independence Payment in 2013. People who claimed Disability Living Allowance before this point may still be receiving the benefit, but will gradually be reassessed for Personal Independence Payment.
This won’t affect most people until 2015 or later. (Reassessment started in October 2013.) In Northern Ireland, you’ll still be able to claim Disability Living Allowance as a new claimant until at least spring 2014.
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 prior to making a claim, unless you’ve been diagnosed with terminal cancer. You don’t need to have a carer to qualify for this benefit.
If you’re terminally ill, you can apply for Personal Independence Payment, 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’ll receive the benefit at the highest rate.
Appealing against an unsuccessful benefit application
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If you’ve been turned down for a benefit or tax credit, you may be able to appeal against that decision or ask for a review. You must do this within a certain time frame. As this can be a complicated process, it’s a good idea to ask a welfare rights adviser for help as soon as possible. You can speak to a welfare rights adviser by calling us.
Prescriptions are free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
People with cancer in England are eligible for free prescriptions. All people undergoing treatment for cancer, or the effects of cancer or its treatment, can apply for an exemption certificate by collecting form FP92A from their GP surgery or oncology clinic.
We have more information about prescription charges available.
You may be able to claim a reduction of your council tax if:
you pay council tax
you’re on a low income or claiming benefits.
To find out more or to apply for a reduction, contact your local council.
Getting information about financial issues
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For more information about benefits and financial support, call the Macmillan Support Line. You can also find out more about benefits from Citizens Advice. You’ll usually need to make an appointment. Or you can get information from gov.uk if you live in England, Scotland or Wales, or from nidirect.gov.uk if you live in Northern Ireland.
Remember that a change in your circumstances (such as a reduction or increase in your salary or in the number of hours you work) can mean you’re entitled to more or less benefit.
You need to find out in detail the regulations and conditions that apply to your benefits.
We have more information about the financial issues you might come across when you have cancer.
We also have information and vidoes on financial issues and sources of financial support .