20 October 2015
Crippling cost of cancer leaves thousands in debt, taking out loans, selling their belongings or downsizing their homes to pay vital bills
Over 30,000 people living with cancer in Scotland each year struggle to keep up with their household bills and credit commitments as a result of their diagnosis, according to a new survey conducted by Macmillan.
The UK-wide YouGov poll included 213 adults from Scotland with cancer and asked about their financial situation over the last 12 months. The survey shows that, in total, more than 90,000 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 (over 30,000 people in Scotland). Thousands of people living with cancer say they have missed paying vital bills due to a lack of money.
Macmillan wants to highlight the huge financial strain that people with cancer can face, incurring extra costs as a result of treatment, can be 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.
Research from across the UK also showed that 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
Trisha Hatt, Macmillan Cancer Support in Scotland says: 'Today’s findings highlight just how appalling the financial situation has become for many people with cancer in Scotland. 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 create a huge financial strain for people. 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.'
'That’s why Macmillan provide finance advice and benefits services across Scotland so people can access this much needed support to get the benefits they are entitled to. However, 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 Government at every level has a duty to protect people with cancer from further financial turmoil.'
Macmillan offers financial support to anyone affected by cancer. Our financial guidance service can help you with your options if you're struggling to manage your finances. To speak to one of our financial experts, call us free on 0808 808 00 00, Monday to Friday 9am-5pm, and ask to speak to a financial guide. Or visit www.macmillan.org.uk/financialsupport