Social care

Macmillan knows that people living with cancer and their carers have social care needs as well as health needs. They tell us they need emotional and practical support and financial help and advice throughout their cancer journey.

'There are currently 1.6 million people in England who are living with a diagnosis of cancer. Cancer must move up the agenda of social care so that they are not left to cope with the consequences of cancer alone.' Ciarán Devane, Macmillan Cancer Support CEO from 2007 to 2014.

Social care landscape across the UK

The cancer landscape is changing. Nearly one in two people will get cancer in their lifetime. Advances in treatment mean that more people with incurable cancer are now living longer and may experience similar illness patterns as those with long-term conditions. We also know that 70% of people with cancer also have another long term condition. 

Additionally, as the population with cancer increases so does its impact on local places, not just in an increase in informal carers but also on children (young carers or children with parents with cancer) and employers/education.

Whilst the good news is that more people are surviving cancer, even for those considered cured, returning to normality is challenging, and as with people at the end of life, the consequences of the disease and treatment pathways not only impact on their physical condition, but also on their psychological, financial and social wellbeing.

These needs can include:

  • Support with mental health issues arising from their experience of cancer
  • Help to make lifestyle choices to aid survival and prevention of secondary occurrences
  • Assistance with returning to and/or enabling independent living (including self management) and maintaining wellbeing (including employment) or to access welfare benefits, and end-of-life and bereavement support

Cancer is a social issue as well as a medical one. Support is often needed when people no longer require acute care and return home. Please see our Hidden at home: The social care needs of people with cancer report [PDF] for further evidence of unmet needs of people affected by cancer.

Our work

We are highlighting the social needs of people affected by cancer, via our influencing and campaigning, our services, and  through work with organisations across health and social care.

Macmillan is also working with specific Local Authorities, developing complex partnerships to ensure that from diagnosis people are able to access the support they need, how and when they want. Support that puts the person at the centre, to enable choice and control so people can achieve what is important to them for life and the people who support them. The Macmillan Local Authority Partnership Programme is aimed at developing and working with Local Authorities on providing holistic care solutions and improving the experiences of all people affected by cancer.

Together, Macmillan, in partnership with local authorities and working with local health partners, third sector, communities and people affected by cancer, are combining our expertise to try to ensure everyone diagnosed with cancer can easily access all the support they need as soon as they need it to enable them to live as well and as independently as possible.

Please contact Fiona Smith for more information.


With the right support, 73% of people with cancer would prefer to die at home, yet only 29% actually do.

At present, NHS-provided care is free at the point of need while social care services are means-tested. People with assets above £23,250 have to pay for their social care, which suggests not all individuals may be able to access social care services within their means.

The process for accessing state-funded social care is complicated and lengthy, and is carried out separately from the healthcare system. For patients who have maybe only weeks to live this fragmentation leads to delays that can prevent them from dying in the place of their choosing.

Macmillan believes that people in the last months of life, who are on an end of life care register, should receive free social care. This would help them to die at home or in the place of their choice.

For more information visit our Choice at the End of Life campaign.

Being at home made the situation easier for us to cope with. It was comforting to know Emile was in the place he wanted to be and surrounded by people he knew and loved.

Liz, campaign supporter

Investing in community care

The number of people surviving cancer more than five years from initial diagnosis will more than double to 2.7 million in 2030.

As people live longer with and beyond cancer, more are affected by long-term and complex conditions. Evidence shows us that almost two in three people with cancer (64%) have practical or personal support needs1. We also know that 1 in 10 (11%) people with cancer in the UK, equivalent to at least 160,000 people, say they are constantly or often left housebound due to a lack of social care support2.

With investment in the health and social care system across the UK likely to reduce over the next five years, there will be greater pressure to deliver this much needed support. We need to rely on the expertise of others to provide this specialist care. That’s why Macmillan is exploring new approaches enabling a wider range of providers to better meet people’s non-clinical needs and build strong local support for them once they have left hospital.

To support this new approach we will invest, in partnership with Big Society Capital, into a social impact fund which will enable local communities to create the services they need the most. The fund is referred to as The Care and Wellbeing Fund and will be managed by Social Finance Ltd and supported by the Health Foundation.

The Care and Wellbeing Fund will work in partnership with commissioners and organisations in local communities, expanding the level and types of support available and improving the quality of life for people affected by cancer and other long term conditions.

For further information please contact Richard Ball.

1,2Macmillan Cancer Support, Hidden at Home – the social care needs of people with cancer, 2015 [PDF].

Our partners

The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE) represents 1,700 of the most senior executives and managers in UK local government.

Since 2010, Macmillan Cancer Support and SOLACE have worked together to raise awareness of Macmillan's activities, and are developing a number of partnerships with local authorities. These partnerships will focus on re-shaping services for people affected by cancer, developing innovative local services and better coordinating care and support in communities.

For more information, visit the SOLACE website or ‘Our work’ section at the top of the page.

Contact us

Fiona Smith – Social care lead

Fiona leads Macmillan’s Local Authority Partnership programme and the wider social care programme.

Email Fiona.

Charlotte Argyle - Carers support programme manager

Charlotte leads on Macmillan’s programme of support for carers, which includes practical and emotional support, influencing activity (including Carers Week), user involvement, and information for carers.

Email Charlotte.

Dying Matters

Macmillan is a member of the Dying Matters Coalition led by the National Council for Palliative Care, which has the specific aim of raising the profile of death and dying. We continue to promote this work and equivalent work in the Celtic Nations through our website and newsletters.

Visit the Dying Matters website for more information.