Cancer and financial help

A cancer diagnosis can change your financial situation. It may mean you need to stop working, or work less. It can also mean spending more money on things like hospital parking. But depending on your situation, you may be able to get benefits or other financial support.

The benefits and tax rates in this information apply from April 2020 to April 2021.

Understanding benefits

Benefits are payments from the government to people who need financial help. When you are affected by cancer, you might be able to receive benefits to:

  • help with extra costs
  • support you if you have to stop working.

The benefits you may be entitled to depend on factors like your age, your income and where you live.

Sometimes there are differences between the benefits systems in different parts of the UK. We explain these differences throughout this information.

Benefits if you are unable to work or on a low income

Support from your work

If you work for an employer and take time off sick, you may be able to get sick pay. Your employer should also make reasonable adjustments to help you do your job during and after cancer treatment.

If you are self-employed you will not get sick pay. But you can still apply for other benefits if you cannot work or if your income decreases.

Access to Work provides advice and practical support if you have a long-term health condition that affects the way you do your job. This might include help with extra costs caused by your health condition.

Visit Access to Work, or NiDirect if you live in Northern Ireland.

Employment and Support Allowance

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is for people under the State Pension age who have an illness or disability that affects how much they can work. You can apply for ESA if you are employed, self-employed, unemployed or a student.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit (UC) is a benefit for people under State Pension age who are on a low income or out of work.

To claim UC, you must:

  • be aged 18 or over – or 16 or over in certain cases
  • not be in full-time education or training – unless exceptions apply, such as you get Personal Independence Payment and are not able to work due to ill-health
  • not have more than £16,000 in savings (between you and a partner if you have one)
  • accept an agreement called a claimant commitment.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is for people under State Pension age or who are unemployed but able to work. It gives you a weekly income while you look for work.

Income tax refund

You may be able to get a tax refund if you give up work, or if your income decreases. It is also worth checking whether you are still paying the correct amount of tax if your situation changes.

Your employer may be able to organise this. You can also apply for a tax refund online or contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on 0300 200 3000.

Disability benefits

Keeping a diary

Recording the problems you have every day in a diary can help you show how a disability or illness affects you, or that you have problems looking after yourself.

This may help you complete a claim form for benefits that support people with a disability or illness. You can also send it as supporting evidence along with your claim form. Other evidence could include reports or care plans from your GP, doctor, nurse, or other health professionals.

Personal Independence Payment

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a benefit for people aged 16 to State Pension age. It is for people who have problems with daily living or moving around.

Disability Living Allowance for Adults

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for adults has been replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

DLA for adults was a benefit for people aged under 65 who had problems walking, moving around outdoors safely, or looking after themselves. You may still be getting DLA for adults if you live in England, Scotland or Wales and claimed before June 2013.

Attendance Allowance

Attendance Allowance (AA) is a benefit for people at or above State Pension age. It is for people who have problems looking after themselves because of an illness or disability.

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

You can claim Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit if you were employed in a job, or on an employment training scheme, that either:

  • caused you to have a disease
  • caused you to have an accident.

Help with toilet needs

The National Key Scheme (NKS) offers people with a disability (including cancer) access to public disabled toilets across the UK. You can buy a RADAR (Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation) key for £4.75 (including postage and packaging) from Disability Rights UK or call 020 3687 0790.

In Northern Ireland, these keys can be bought at any local council office.

The Macmillan toilet card

Cancer treatment can affect the way the bowel or bladder works. Macmillan can send you a free toilet card and key ring, which explain why you may need to access a toilet urgently while out in public. We have a general version, and one for people who are experiencing late side effects after pelvic radiotherapy. Visit and search for ‘toilet card’ to order these free resources.

Benefits for people of pension age

State Pension

The State Pension is a regular payment you can get from the government when you reach State Pension age.

The State Pension age for men and women is increasing in stages.

We have more information about pensions, including private pensions.

Pension Credit

Pension Credit is a benefit for people who have reached a certain age and have a low income. To get Pension Credit, you or your partner if you have one, must have reached State Pension age. Your partner means your husband, wife or civil partner (if you live with them), or someone else you live with as if you were married.

Help with children’s costs

There is financial assistance available to help with the care and education of children and young people:

  • Help from the government towards childcare costs might include a certain amount of free childcare, or some money to help pay for childcare.
  • Disability Living Allowance for children is a benefit that can help with the costs of looking after a child with a disability.
  • You may be able to get help with costs for school meals, school clothing and travel. The help you are entitled to will depend on your individual situation and where in the UK you live.

Help with bills and housing costs

You may be able to get help with housing costs. This could include rent or mortgage payments, council tax and home adaptations.

Universal Credit and Housing Benefit

  • Universal Credit has replaced Housing Benefit in most circumstances. If you are making a new claim, or there is a change in your circumstances, you may need to apply for Universal Credit instead of Housing Benefit.
  • Housing Benefit may help you to pay your rent if you are on a low income

Help with council tax or rates mortgage interest and bills

There are other benefits, loans and grants available to help with the costs of housing.

Local council tax reduction schemes can help towards the cost of your council tax if you are on a low income. If you live in Northern Ireland, you may be able to apply for help to pay your rates bill.

If you own your home, you may be able to apply for a loan from the government to help pay your mortgage interest payments.

You may also be able to get help if you need to adapt, repair or improve your home. The help available depends on where you live in the UK.

Help with health costs

You may be able to get financial help with health costs when you have cancer. This can include help with prescriptions, wigs and fabric supports, dental treatment and eye treatment.

If you need special equipment or aids to help you live at home, you may be able to get what you need for free. Your doctor or nurse may arrange for this to be provided, or they can refer you to a social worker.

If you pay for your own nursing home charges, you may be entitled to financial help. You should speak to your healthcare professional or call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.

Help with transport and parking

Travelling to and from hospital can be expensive. You may be able to get help with the cost of going to hospital for treatment.

You may also be eligible for car and driving costs, special travel rates or community transport services in your area. Older people and people with disabilities can often get free or discounted travel fares.

If you have problems with mobility, you may be able to get a Blue Badge. A Blue Badge allows you to park in parking spaces closer to where you need to go. You can apply at GOV.UK if you live in England, Scotland or Wales, or if you live in Northern Ireland.

Benefits at end of life

If you have found out that your cancer cannot be cured or you are looking after someone with advanced cancer, you may be entitled to benefits or other financial support.

Most people who need care towards the end of their lives qualify for disability benefits. These include:

If you are terminally ill and not expected to live for longer than six months, you can apply for these benefits under special rules. Your claim will be dealt with quickly and you will receive the benefit at the highest rate.

If you look after someone with cancer

Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Credit

If you look after someone with a lot of care needs, you could be entitled to Carer’s Allowance.

If you are entitled to Carer’s Allowance, or the carers element of Universal Credit, you will not be affected by the benefit cap.

Carer’s Credit helps prevent gaps in your National Insurance record if you have to stop working while you are caring for someone else.

Bereavement benefits

Bereavement benefits can be paid to someone whose husband, wife or civil partner has died.

If your partner died on or after 6 April 2017, you can make a claim for Bereavement Support Payment up to 3 months after their death.

To get Bereavement Support Payment, you must have been under State Pension age when your partner died.

Grants and loans

Macmillan Grants are small, discretionary payments to help people with the extra costs that cancer can cause. They are usually a one-off payment. They are for people who have a low level of income and savings.

There may be grants and loans available from other local or national organisations you can get if you need financial help.