Friday 1st July 2016
Mac Voice, the magazine for Macmillan professionals: Summer 2016
‘As welfare rights advisers on the Macmillan Support Line, our main role is to talk people affected about cancer through their benefit entitlements.'
'Sometimes they might be people who have never accessed benefits before, or they may already be claiming benefits but need advice. We can look at the full range of benefits and financial support they could be eligible for, and give guidance on how to apply for this help.
A typical call might be advising someone who is out of work, or working less, because of cancer. They might be able to claim benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance, or a disability benefit such as Personal Independence Payment. But there might also be income-related benefits that they could receive. So many people we speak to don’t realise that they have been eligible for benefits for years. We can help them to apply and receive backpayments, which are sometimes several thousand pounds.
You can hear the relief in people’s voices over the course of a phone call. They often call sounding panicked, but by the end of the conversation they are much more relaxed in knowing that help is available.
The benefits system can be very confusing, especially with all the changes in recent years. It’s almost impenetrable if you approach it as a layperson. That’s where we can help. We can explain some of the jargon or just keep it in language that people understand. We can tell people how to apply themselves and then talk them through the forms – sometimes I’ve spent a couple of hours talking someone through as they fill in an application. If they need to, we can direct them to local Macmillan services for face-to-face benefits support.
In the course of a year I would speak to over 1,000 people. As a team we help to unlock in the region of £49.8 million in benefits and financial support, which can make a huge difference to people’s lives. I would encourage all health and social care professionals to tell people about our service, and also to look out for people who may not realise that they could be eligible for benefits.’
Our partnership with StepChange Debt Charity
Macmillan and StepChange Debt Charity have been working together to support people affected by cancer who are worried about debt. Callers to the Macmillan Support Line can be referred to StepChange for specialist debt advice. The partnership has been a great success, with more than 3,500 referrals from Macmillan to StepChange, and advice provided on £12.3m of debt.
The people you support may also be able to meet a Macmillan welfare rights adviser in person through a local service. Check online to see where this is available. Other organisations can also provide support in person, such as your local Citizens Advice.
Financial information from Macmillan
People can also order financial information from Macmillan in booklets or other formats, by visiting be.Macmillan or calling the support line. This includes our most popular booklet, Help with the cost of cancer. Financial information is also available online, including our new online financial support tool. The tool includes a quick benefits checker and a benefits calculator. People can use these tools to estimate the benefits they may be able to get.