4 June 2014
A 73-year-old North Belfast widow, whose husband recently died of cancer, has received a cheque for £30,000 in unclaimed pension payments.
The pensioner told our advisers that she had no idea that the couple was owed so much money. When her husband died, June was offered a benefits entitlement check carried out by a dedicated team of Citizens Advice Belfast staff who are funded by Macmillan. June says, 'They were excellent and helped me through a very difficult time. They took all the stress out of pursuing a claim, which I wouldn’t have had the energy to chase.'
Last year benefits advisers within the Belfast Health Trust helped cancer patients claim a total of £5 million pounds in social security payments and charitable grants. In fact, the Macmillan scheme has been so successful that – with help from the Department of Social Development’s Innovation Fund – we have now set up a 12-month pilot project for patients at the Royal Victoria Hospital stroke unit and Musgrave Park acquired brain injury unit.
Heather Monteverde, General Manager of Macmillan in Northern Ireland, says: 'Cancer patients need access to financial advice as soon as possible after being diagnosed. We know cancer results in a drop in income for many people, whilst increasing outgoings in terms of fuel bills and travel costs.'
'Macmillan has clearly demonstrated the need for benefits advice as a core part of cancer care and recovery. Thanks to the Innovation Fund, we’re now seeing if the same system of checks in a hospital setting can help other patients with long term conditions.'
As a result of the new scheme, Macmillan-CAB benefits advisers have been able to help a 54-year-old Ballynahinch man who suffered a stroke during planned heart surgery. Frank is now a wheelchair-user and can no longer work as a joiner.
His sister, Mary, will be his primary carer and she had been worried about the future until she spoke to the benefits team. She says, 'Frank will get a blue badge for his car and a £3,000 back payment that we didn’t even know about. Before this everyone in our family worked and we knew nothing about the benefits system. These entitlement checks have taken a load off my mind when I have enough pressures to deal with.'
'Frank was worried about losing his independence but now he will be able to return to his own home. His income will actually be higher now than before. He wasn’t claiming exemption from rates charges and I didn’t know I could claim a carer’s allowance.'
Pat Colton, Operations Manager for Citizens Advice Belfast, says: 'At a time when there are lots of stories in the news about welfare reform and benefits cuts, it’s important that people who are in the greatest need get help to claim all the benefits they are entitled to.'
'As part of the Macmillan scheme, our team of dedicated CAB advisers can help families affected by stroke and acquired brain injury, allowing them to focus on treatment and recovery.'
CAB advisers are based at the Royal Victoria Hospital Stroke Unit and Musgrave Park Hospital Acquired Brain Injury Unit.
Find out more about benefits advice at Macmillan and see what you are entitled to using our online financial guidance tool.