Money and cancer

People with cancer can face a significant financial impact as a result of their diagnosis. It is important that they have access to the support they need from financial services providers, the NHS, Governments and beyond.

Macmillan’s research shows four in five people:

  • feel the financial impact of cancer
  • and are on average £570 worse off a month.

For many people, a cancer diagnosis may mean they have to reduce their hours or stop working for a period of time. This can result in a reduced income, at a time when they may be facing increased costs because of paying for regular trips to medical appointments and higher household bills.

With the cancer population set to grow from 2.5 million today to 4 million by 2030 it is vital that action is taken now, to ensure people get the financial support they need.

Is Universal Credit working?

A person completing a form.

Macmillan is concerned that too often Universal Credit is not working for people with cancer. It can be difficult to apply for, hard to get the right support, and often comes with long waits for payments.

What’s the problem?

Universal Credit replaces six working age benefits, including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which provides financial support to people who are unable to work due to illness or disability.

We are calling on the UK Government to address the problems people with cancer are facing with Universal Credit.

  • Universal Credit should be easy to access and apply for. Support and adjustments should be automatically offered to people who might struggle with the application process.
  • People with cancer should be able to get support to make a claim as quickly and easily as possible. The Government should reinstate implied consent for advice services like Macmillan’s Benefit Advisers to make sure they can effectively support people applying for Universal Credit.
  • People who are applying for Universal Credit when they have cancer or are terminally ill should not face long waits or delays, and should receive their first payment as quickly as possible.

What needs to happen?

From 2019 the Government will begin moving people from the old welfare system on to Universal Credit. This will be called managed migration.

  • We are asking the Government to make sure the problems with Universal Credit are fixed before they begin managed migration.
  • We are also calling for the migration process to be as simple as possible.
  • Managed migration should not require people with cancer to make a new claim for benefits or experience any gaps in their income when they move to Universal Credit.

Find out more about how Universal Credit and managed migration could impact people with cancer.


Latest reports:

In The Balance report: June 2017

A person counting money from a wallet.

In June 2017, we published In The Balance [PDF, 3MB]. It outlines the banking sector's vital role in helping people to cope with the financial impact of cancer. In it, we make a number of calls on the banking sector to improve the support provided.

What do we want banks to do?

  • Ensure that staff have sufficient knowledge about cancer, as well as general vulnerability training, to meet the needs of their customers with cancer.
  • Ensure that people are aware of, and referred to, specialised support where this is available.
  • Increase their focus on the early identification of people affected by cancer and the development of early interventions to support them.
  • Develop new flexible policies and processes to help people affected by cancer manage mortgage repayments and other credit commitments.
  • Invest in communications to their customers to increase awareness of - and confidence in - the support available, to encourage them to disclose a cancer diagnosis to their bank.
  • Evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of interventions designed to support vulnerable customers and share best practice to improve sector-wide consistency.


What do we want industry bodies to do?

  • Develop a single shared standard for fair treatment of vulnerable customers, which makes explicit reference to the needs of customers with cancer and other serious illness.
  • Establish a monitoring and evaluation framework, with progress reported annually against this new single industry vulnerability standard.


What can be done to support the banking sector?

  • The FCA should provide clarity about how it expects banks to show that they are delivering improved outcomes for their vulnerable customers and how this will be assessed using regulatory tools and powers.
  • The Government should amend the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 to create a requirement on the FCA to set out a reasonable duty of care for financial services providers to exercise towards their customers.


No Small Change Report: February 2017

Hands opening an envelope

In February 2017, we published a report, No Small Change [PDF, 2.5 MB]. Our report provides an insight into the significant financial impact of cancer and how it can affect people’s physical and mental wellbeing. It outlines what governments, health bodies and the financial services industry should do to help people face the financial impact of cancer.

What we are calling for

  • People affected by cancer to be made aware of the financial impact of cancer and signposted to the appropriate financial information, guidance, or advice at key points in their journey.
  • The benefits system to operate effectively and to provide an adequate level of support for people affected by cancer.
  • The banking and insurance sectors to do more to ensure their customers with cancer have consistently positive outcomes.

Find out more about our campaign to Make Money One Less Worry.


The financial impact of cancer in the devolved nations


Financial Support for cancer patients has always been at the forefront of Macmillan’s work in Scotland. We are currently partnered with the Scottish Government and local councils to provide Financial and Benefits Advice at the five cancer centres in Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

With new welfare powers being devolved to the Scottish Parliament we will campaign to ensure that cancer patients get the benefits they are entitled to in as efficient a manner as possible.


Wales / Cymru

We know from our research and from speaking to people affected by cancer that finances and the cost of cancer is an increasing issue for people in Wales. Only a quarter of people with cancer discuss their financial situation with a health or social care professional. 

We believe that each person who receives a cancer diagnosis should be offered the opportunity to access welfare benefits advice to ensure stress and anxiety around their finances is minimised.

Arian a Chanser

Gwyddom trwy ein hymchwil ac wrth siarad â phobl sydd wedi cael eu heffeithio gan ganser fod cyllid a chost canser yn broblem gynyddol i bobl yng Nghymru. Dim ond chwarter y bobl sydd â chanser sydd yn trafod eu sefyllfa ariannol gyda gweithiwr iechyd neu ofal cymdeithasol proffesiynol.

Credwn y dylai pob person sydd yn cael diagnosis o ganser gael cyfle i gael cyngor am fudd-daliadau lles er mwyn lleihau’r straen a’r pryder yn ymwneud â’u sefyllfa ariannol.


Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Welfare Reform Act was passed in November 2015 and the introduction of changes to working age benefits are now underway. This could have an impact on the financial support received by people affected by cancer. We consider it vitally important that people with cancer are supported through these changes and do not lose out on much needed income.

Currently, more than 1 in 4 people of working age receive no information about getting financial help when undergoing treatment for cancer in Northern Ireland. Macmillan is committed to making sure that everyone affected by cancer is signposted to appropriate support and receives the benefits they are entitled to.


Key UK reports

A collection of our UK key reports are available to download below. Please see nation specific resources above.

Tick the document name to select. Then click ‘Download selected’ to download