19 March 2010
More than £8 million in disability benefits is going unclaimed by people diagnosed with terminal cancer in Scotland. However, a report launched today by leading cancer charity Macmillan Cancer Support shows the situation has improved since 2004 when £15 million was going unclaimed.
Since then, Macmillan has established a network of financial advice services across Scotland that help people affected by cancer identify the benefits they are entitled to. Macmillan’s Unclaimed Millions report found that 32 per cent of people dying from cancer without receiving either Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Attendance Allowance (AA).
These are benefits terminally ill cancer patients are automatically entitled to. Low take-up is due to people not knowing they are eligible, the perceived stigma of claiming state benefits and the long and confusing claiming process.
Allan Cowie, Macmillan’s general manager for Scotland, said:
'The benefits system is confusing and complex and, for someone who is unwell, it can seem impossible to navigate.
'Cancer patients should be routinely given access to financial information at the time of diagnosis and as their condition progresses.
'This is because money worries are a huge source of stress to people, impacting on the quality of their lives and indeed on their health and the last thing that should be worrying about towards the end of their lives is money.'
Following the Unclaimed Millions report in 2004, Macmillan took action and began to set up financial advice services across the UK.
The first one was piloted in Lanarkshire in the same year and since then Macmillan’s financial advice services have helped more than 20,000 people claim over £70 million in benefits in Scotland.
Across the UK, Macmillan’s report has found that a staggering £90.8 million is going unclaimed.
These findings are only the tip of the iceberg as millions more is going unclaimed by people with cancer who do not have a terminal diagnosis. By not claiming DLA or AA, people are also missing out on linked benefits such as Carers Allowance.
Helen Sinclair, a Macmillan benefits adviser at the City of Edinburgh Welfare Benefits Project in Edinburgh, said:
'Access to the right financial information is so important. We know that money worries are a huge source of stress for people and many don’t think that they might be entitled to benefits.
'I’d urge anyone affected by cancer to contact us as we can alleviate some of the stress by helping them to maximise their incomes.
'As well as identifying benefits they may be entitled to, we also fill out the complex application forms for them and in some cases will appeal benefits decisions.
'These are benefits that people affected by cancer are entitled to and so it’s important they are able to access them.'
To help cancer patients and carers find out what benefits they may be able to claim, Macmillan has launched an easy-to-use online program called Benefits made clear. The interactive guide, which is the first provided by a charity, can be found at www.macmillan.org.uk/benefitsmadeclear.
Macmillan also provides financial information via a national helpline, local benefits advisers and a range of publications.
To find out more about the financial support offered by Macmillan or how to contact a local benefits adviser, call 0808 808 00 00 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk/financialsupport.