Headlines: June 23rd, 2004

People diagnosed with terminal cancer are missing out on more than a hundred million pounds in unclaimed disability benefits according to a report today from leading care charity Macmillan Cancer Relief. It is concerned that thousands of cancer patients are not taking up benefits to which they are entitled through lack of information, confusion or embarrassment, leaving 126.5 million pounds unclaimed.The charity’s research shows that more than half of the 154,000 people who die each year from cancer do not claim disability benefits. The study also found there was a big variation in take-up across the United Kingdom with Scotland having the lowest claim rate overall. Almost two-thirds of eligible Scots do not claim. Someone living with cancer in Northern Ireland is more than twice as likely to claim as someone living with cancer in Scotland.

Macmillan says low take-up is due to a number of issues such as the perceived stigma of claiming benefits from the state and the complicated and confusing claiming process. Its report quotes one woman – thirty-seven-year-old Lyndsay Baker from Luton – who was recently diagnosed, as saying, “I found claiming benefits more stressful than having cancer itself.”

The report’s findings relate to unclaimed Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Attendance Allowance (AA) by people diagnosed with terminal cancer. Terminally ill cancer patients automatically qualify for DLA and AA. It believes millions of pounds more may be going unclaimed by people, like Lyndsay, who do not have a terminal diagnosis. More than a million people are living with cancer and. Macmillan says, many may still be entitled to claim DLA, AA or other benefits such as housing or council tax benefit, income support or Carer’s Allowance. Again, it says, lack of knowledge, embarrassment or the sheer difficulties of claiming, may stop them accessing these vital benefits.

Peter Cardy, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Relief, says, “Our findings are just the tip of the iceberg. Cancer can have an enormous impact on someone’s income. They can plummet from a comfortable lifestyle to one of real financial difficulty. It is appalling that people affected by cancer are faced with the unacceptable extra stress and worry of money problems when they are most vulnerable, especially when that help does exist if only they knew about it.”