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Top 10 tips to help you claim the benefits you are entitled to when living with cancer
Maggie’s Cheltenham’s Benefits Advisor says: “For people living with cancer, claiming benefits can be a confusing and complicated process. We offer a range of support here at Maggie’s in helping people to claim benefits and help ease some of the financial pressure at what is already a turbulent time for all those living with cancer.
“We can help navigate the complicated and ever-changing system of applying for benefits, can help those who are feeling too ill to process and complete the necessary forms when claiming benefits, and can also help access any additional support people with cancer might be eligible for.”
1. Seek advice: If you are worried about your finances or not sure whether you are entitled to claim benefits then do ask for help. Maggie’s Benefits Advice service offers drop-in and booked appointments for any questions you may have on benefit and grant applications.
2. Don’t make assumptions: When it comes to cancer, everyone’s circumstances are different. Many assume they aren’t entitled to any benefits because they get sick pay from work or have savings, but this isn’t the case. Some benefits look only at the impact that your health is having on your day to day life and others are based on your national insurance contributions.
3. Consider help towards health costs: In Scotland and Wales prescriptions are provided free of charge automatically, whereas in England, anyone who is undergoing treatment for cancer should apply for a medical exemption certificate to enable them to claim free prescriptions. These provisions do not help towards other health costs such as dental treatment, sight tests and travel fares to hospital, but help may still be available through the NHS low income scheme.
4. Consider any mobility difficulties: A Blue Badge enables people with mobility problems to access disabled parking bays. If you’re receiving certain benefits you qualify automatically, otherwise you’ll need to describe your mobility problems and may need to attend an assessment. It’s also worth enquiring about any specific parking arrangements for cancer patients at your local hospital.
5. Ask for extra help: Many organisations are able to offer charitable grants to help out with the extra expenses associated with cancer. This can include things like increased heating costs, travel fares to hospital, or help to replace an essential household appliance.
6. Be prepared for tough questions: In order to claim benefits, you may need to provide details of your diagnosis and you may be asked about your prognosis. This can be distressing, especially when it’s unexpected. If you don’t feel able to make a telephone call, someone can speak on your behalf if you give permission at the start of the call.
7. Keep your paperwork: Creating a folder where you keep all of your benefit letters and copies of any paperwork or documents that you submit can be really helpful. You can easily see which benefits you have claimed and the contact details for the relevant department should you need to get in touch.
8. Keep records of any telephone calls: It’s useful to keep basic notes from any telephone calls you make regarding your benefits. A note of the date, time, name and department of the person you spoke to and what was agreed during the call can be useful at a later date if there is a query.
9. Remember to update all departments: Once you’ve successfully claimed benefits, you are responsible for reporting any changes in your circumstances to the department responsible for administering your benefit. This can mean notifying the same change to several different departments such as the local authority if you get help towards your council tax charge and HMRC if you claim tax credits.
Act promptly: If you receive letters requesting a response or information that your benefits are changing or are being stopped or suspended and you’re not sure why, you should respond immediately. Any deadline for responding should be detailed in the letter and if you can’t meet a deadline you should contact the department that sent you the letter and explain the problem.
Maggie’s offers free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their families and friends.
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