Millions of reasons to celebrate tenth birthday
1 June 2017
A team providing financial support is celebrating securing £26.5 million for people affected by cancer over the past decade. Since the Bedfordshire Macmillan Welfare Benefits Advice Service was launched ten years ago, the team has helped almost 7,500 people.
It sees Macmillan Cancer Support and Central Bedfordshire Council working together to ensure people diagnosed with cancer, their families and carers across Central Bedfordshire, Bedford Borough and, more recently, parts of Peterborough can access the financial support to which they are entitled.
Tina Sullivan, Senior Welfare Rights Advisor in the team, says that in ten years the service has evolved since it was launched with mid-Beds Council and is now moving to a hospital-based service to identify people in need of help at an earlier stage after their diagnosis.
She said: “We advise on benefit entitlements, help people with claims, grant applications and any other challenges they may face. We don't count the financial gain until the case is closed. We are averaging more than £2 million per year.”
People with cancer 83 per cent worse off
Research by Macmillan Cancer Support show that 83 per cent of people with cancer are on average £570 a month worse off because of their diagnosis. That is why access to welfare benefits advice at the right time is vital.
As well as Tina, the team is made up of three advisors and two support workers, expanding in 2015 when Macmillan asked the team to cover Peterborough.
Most referrals come from health and social care professionals and Tina says that they are looking to increase the number of clients they see.
She said: "To put things in perspective, in Bedfordshire in 2014 there were 2,296 cancer diagnoses - and we currently see between 700 and 800 people per year.
"We go to local advice forums, Citizens Advice, sessions run by Carers in Beds, cancer support groups, offer advice at places like [independent living scheme] Priory View – anywhere we can potentially help.
"Macmillan are keen to reduce the financial impact of cancer. It's things like parking charges when you have to visit hospital regularly - or the extra expenses if you are going for radiotherapy or specialist treatment at hospitals like Mount Vernon and Addenbrooke's.”
Tina added: "Our clients will often be in work when they are diagnosed and suddenly find themselves on sick pay, or half pay, and facing extra expenses. So, the help that we offer them is invaluable."
The service has recently achieved the Advice Quality Standard (AQS), the quality mark for organisations that provide advice to the public.
Wendy Bailey, Macmillan’s Service Project Manager, said: “We are delighted that the Central Bedfordshire benefits service has achieved the AQS as it shows it is meeting the needs of people affected by cancer.
“The award is a fantastic endorsement of the service and the people delivering it. It shows we are reaching people at the right time in the right place to minimise the financial stress. By sending an adviser to the hospital twice a week, we can provide even more people affected by cancer with the welfare benefits advice they need.
“I’m really proud that the team are offering quality support to so many people in the area.”
Helping the team to celebrate their landmark was John Pearson, Macmillan's Executive Director of Cancer Support Operations, who visited the team at Priory House, in Chicksands – where most them are based – today (1 June).
He said: “People are often surprised at how much their finances can be affected after being diagnosed with cancer; it can be the last thing you might think about.
“The cost of having cancer to an individual and their household is much greater than people realise.
“The aim of our benefits model is to reach people as early as we can so people with cancer receive a specialist financial support at diagnosis, during active treatment, palliative care and end of life. It is great to witness the service first-hand and see the impact it is having.”
More information about the Macmillan service is on this website.
The team can be contacted on 0300 300 8145 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org