1 October 2015
*Crippling cost of cancer leaves thousands in debt, taking out loans, selling their belongings or downsizing their homes to pay vital bills*
Almost 400,000 people living with cancer each year struggle to keep up with their household bills and credit commitments as a result of their diagnosis , according to a new survey by Macmillan Cancer Support.
The UK-wide YouGov poll questioned 2,011 adults with cancer and asked about their financial situation over the last 12 months. The survey shows that, in total, more than a million people with cancer (42%) are struggling to keep up with their household bills and credit commitments. And one in three (36%) of these say they are struggling to keep up with their household bills and credit commitments either entirely or partly because of their diagnosis (400,000 people).
Macmillan is bringing attention to the “dire financial situation” that people with cancer can face, incurring extra costs as a result of treatment, left unable to work and/or already struggling financially prior to diagnosis. It is warning that potential upcoming changes to welfare provisions could leave many without the support they need.
Tens of thousands of people living with cancer say they have missed paying vital bills due to a lack of money, with an estimated 66,000 missing a council tax payment and 51,000 missing a water bill in the last year .
In order to keep up with payments:
• One in three (34%) used their savings
• One in 11 (9%) used a credit (or store) card (that is not settled each month)
• One in 13 (8%) sold their belongings such as a personal item or car
• One in 25 (4%) had to downsize or sell their home
• One in 30 (3%) took out a loan from someone like a bank, building society, finance company or payday lender
The research shows that one in three (32%) people living with cancer had to borrow money in the past year to help pay their bills.
Of the cancer patients who borrowed money to pay bills, the average amount borrowed over the last 12 months was £1,270. Shockingly, in some cases (2%) cancer patients had borrowed over £10,000 in the last year.
The survey also asked people about the impact of struggling to keep up with rent or mortgage payments, or household bills and credit commitments and found that:
• One in six (17%) didn’t buy new clothes when they needed them
• One in seven (14%) bought cheaper but less nutritious food
• One in ten (10%) skipped or reduced the size of their meals
• One in eleven (9%) sold their possessions
Cathy Simms, 47, from South Wales was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012. She says:
“The battle with debt has been harder than the cancer itself. I lost my well paid job due to discrimination, took my employer to court and partially won the case. But it’s had devastating effects as I lost two years’ income when I couldn’t pay my bills, resulting in huge unpaid debts. To settle these I may face bankruptcy or an IVA and even selling the family home. It’s been the most awful experience.”
Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“Today’s findings are truly distressing. They shine a light on just how dire the financial situation has become for many people with cancer in the UK. No one should have to worry about where money to pay for their heating is going to come from when they’re going through cancer, or be forced to buy less nutritious food at a time when they need it the most.
“Unfortunately cancer comes with a cost, and not just one that’s physical and emotional, but one which can bring patients to the brink of financial crisis. Often cancer patients are forced to manage a loss of income, if they or their partner need to stop working, on top of the additional costs that come with a cancer diagnosis, such as regular trips to medical appointments and increased household bills as a person with cancer feels the cold more.
“On top of this, the Welfare Reform and Work Bill is currently going through Parliament and it proposes to reduce the benefits of cancer patients who are unable to or need help getting back to work by around £30 a week. Macmillan is calling on the Government to reconsider these plans as they could leave thousands of people with cancer without a sufficient financial lifeline at a time when they are already struggling.
“We understand that managing the financial impact of the disease is complex and that ultimately there is not a ‘magic bullet’ which will solve all of this. But every sector has a duty to protect people with cancer from further financial turmoil and the Government now has the opportunity to take the first step.”
For further information, please contact:
Claire McMahon, Media an PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
0207 091 2103 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
1. Macmillan Cancer Support/YouGov online survey of 2,011 UK adults who have ever been diagnosed with cancer. Fieldwork conducted 7-11 November 2014. Survey data has been weighted by age and gender to match the known profile of people living with cancer (using 2008 cancer prevalence estimates).
2. Macmillan estimate (of over a million) calculated by taking the proportion of survey respondents who say they or their partner have struggled at least from time to time in the last 12 months with household bills and credit commitments (excluding mortgage or rent payments) (42%), applied to the total estimated number of people living with cancer in the UK in 2015 (2,500,000). Of these 36% said their struggle was at least partially due to loss of income or increased costs resulting from your cancer diagnosis/treatment (i.e. 400,000).
3. Macmillan estimate calculated by taking the proportion of survey respondents who say they or their partner have missed a Council Tax or Rates bill at any time in the last 12 months due to a lack of money (2.6%), applied to the total estimated number of people living with cancer in the UK in 2015 (2,500,000).
Macmillan estimate calculated by taking the proportion of survey respondents who say they or their partner have missed a water bill at any time in the last 12 months due to a lack of money (2%), applied to the total estimated number of people living with cancer in the UK in 2015 (2,500,000).
About Macmillan Cancer Support
When you have cancer, you don’t just worry about what will happen to your body, you worry about what will happen to your life. Whether it’s concerns about who you can talk to, planning for the extra costs or what to do about work, at Macmillan we understand how a cancer diagnosis can take over everything.
That’s why we’re here. We provide support that helps people take back control of their lives. But right now, we can’t reach everyone who needs us. We need your help to make sure that people affected by cancer get the support they need to face the toughest fight of their life. No one should face cancer alone, and with your support no one will.
To get involved, call 0300 1000 200
today. And please remember, we’re here for you too. If you’d like support, information or just to chat, call us free on 0808 808 00 00
(Monday to Friday, 9am–8pm) or visit macmillan.org.uk