Published: Monday, 13th December 2021

New figures from the Medway Council & Macmillan Welfare Benefits Service shows it helped over 600 people claim an average of £5,241 between June 2020 and June 2021.

A cancer charity has secured £3,365,358 million in welfare benefit payments for people living in the Medway area or having treatment at Maidstone Hospital, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The service, partially funded by Macmillan Cancer Support and run by Medway Council, was set up to help people with cancer cope with the huge financial pressures that many face because of the illness.

Macmillan Cancer Support is urging people living with cancer in Kent to access its specialist support as it reveals that 81% people in the South East experience some kind of financial impact from their diagnosis, and for those affected, this reaches an average of £968 a month, on top of their usual expenditure.

Macmillan welfare benefits service for residents

Cllr Gary Hackwell, Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Business Management, said:

"We are proud to have worked with Macmillan Cancer Support since September 2010 to help ensure that residents do not have to worry about the unexpected costs of cancer, such as how to pay their bills or cover the costs of getting to hospital whilst they are undergoing treatment. Our Macmillan Welfare Benefits Service is here to support residents with cancer to access the financial support they are entitled to, and I would encourage those with cancer to contact the team and see how they can help. I would also like to thank the team for their fantastic fundraising efforts.” 

Small things make a big difference

Jim McShane, from Rainham in Kent, was diagnosed with rectal cancer in May 2021. Jim was supported by the team while ensuring that his wife, Tracey, could continue to work. Jim said:

“I got Covid in December 2020 which really took it out of me as I was sick for 5 weeks. Then they discovered that I had rectal cancer, so I had an operation to remove the tumour. I am still being treated for it now.

“I’m a London cab driver but I’ve not worked for 2 years now due to ill health and I’ve been struggling to pay the rent and my bills. It’s so hard as I’ve always worked and supported my family. My Macmillan nurse put me in touch with Vicky from the Macmillan Welfare Benefits Service and they’ve been an absolute God send.

“Tracy does everything for me. She’s amazing and Vicky has sorted out an Attendance Allowance and Universal Credit that she said we were entitled to. I had tried to find out about what I was entitled to myself, but it was a wall I couldn’t get through. Vicky just bulldozed it down. She also arranged a blue badge so at least I can go with Tracey to the supermarket now and get out of the house. It sounds like a small thing, but it has made such a difference to do something normal.”

“They have changed our lives.” 

No one who has a life-threatening illness should worry about how to pay bills

Vicky, Macmillan Welfare Benefit Adviser, who supported Jim said:

“I was so pleased to help Jim and Tracey claim the benefits they were entitled to and also help them secure some help with their Council Tax through Medway Council’s, Council Tax Reduction Scheme. 

“No-one who has a life-threatening illness should have to worry about how to pay their bills or cover the costs of getting to hospital, but every day we hear from people like Jim facing these choices.

“Cancer comes with lots of unexpected costs and often a loss in income. Particularly for those who have never tried to navigate the benefits system before, it can feel like a maze, especially when someone is going through gruelling treatment or struggling to deal with the emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis.

“We want everyone with cancer to know we’re here to help make sure they get access to all the money they’re entitled to. I’d urge anyone with cancer to get in touch and see how we can help.”

As well as operating the benefits advisory service, the Medway Council and Macmillan Welfare Benefit team has been fundraising for the charity since 2013. They have raised over £15,000 by hosting a number of Coffee Mornings, a Karaoke evening and many raffles. Last year, through the pandemic, they managed to boost their fundraising total by selling discontinued Christmas wrapping paper that was donated by Tesco’s. 

Relieving financial anxiety

Sharon Middleton, Macmillan Partnership Manager in Kent said:

“Dealing with the emotional and physical impacts of cancer is one thing, trying to do so while worrying about how to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head is another.

“Cancer is simply not something anyone can budget for and we are immensely proud of what our Macmillan benefits advisers in Medway are achieving when it comes to relieving just some of the financial anxiety experienced by people with cancer as well as fundraising for Macmillan in their spare time.”

If you live in Medway and want to find out more about welfare benefit entitlements available to cancer patients and their families visit our webpage, or the Macmillan website.

Macmillan relies almost entirely on donations from the public to fund its services, and since the pandemic hit, has seen its fundraising income drop. Find out more about Macmillan fundraising events in your area.

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