4 December 2015
Macmillan research has shown that four in five people diagnosed with cancer are on average £570 worse off as a result. But there is plenty of support available from specialist Macmillan teams who can give information and advice, and advocate on behalf of patients to help manage their finances.
Zarah Brown is the Welfare Officer at the Macmillan Welfare Rights Service covering Wolverhampton, Telford and Shropshire. Her team assist in identifying and claiming benefits for people affected by cancer through face-to-face appointments at hospital, over the phone or at the person’s home. They also represent people affected by cancer when their cases need to be appealed, so they receive the correct amount of benefits they are entitled to.
Zarah explains: ‘Claiming benefits can be very frightening for our patients so our aim is to make sure benefits are claimed by the right people at the right time and as smoothly as possible.’
They offer ongoing support and work closely with other local Macmillan services such as the Wolverhampton libraries service, where people can get information leaflets, find out about self-help groups, and be signposted to other sources of support.
Zarah says: ‘Being part of Macmillan is very special and is almost like being part of a very large family. We all share a common goal which is to improve the lives of people living with cancer.
‘One man I supported was a 38-year-old who was recently told that his cancer was terminal. He was concerned that he would have to continue to work because a claim for benefits was unsuccessful which had meant he was facing eviction.’
Through the help of Zarah’s team his second claim was approved. This meant he cleared his rent arrears and also got a Macmillan grant to fund essential household items that he had gone without due to a loss in financial earnings.
For Zarah the best part of her job is seeing what a difference her input has on improving her patients’ quality of life:
‘Being able to relieve my patients of some of the financial stress so that they can focus on treatment and family gives me a huge amount of job satisfaction. It is also very special to be a part of their cancer journey and to get to know them and their family. Looking into a person’s financial affairs can be quite personal so building a relationship with the people I’m supporting and gaining their trust is essential.’
Zarah and her team have also taken part in the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning to help raise vital funds for Macmillan.
No one should face cancer alone. For information, advice or a simply a listening ear, call the Macmillan Support Line on 0800 808 0000. Lines are open are Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm.