Cancer atients across Northern Ireland should have access to financial advice immediately after they receive a diagnosis in a bid to prevent them slipping into poverty, a charity has demanded.
The call comes as thousands of people will travel to Stormont today to raise awareness among MLAs of the importance of benefit entitlement for those battling the disease.
Politicians attending the event organised by Macmillan Cancer Support will learn that a cancer diagnosis often results in a big drop in someone’s income. However, a network of innovative services for cancer patients facing financial hardship has generated almost £5m in benefits.
The Macmillan Cancer Support welfare rights services in Northern Ireland were established two years ago to help people affected by cancer claim statutory benefits.
Many cancer patients face an increase in costs for things like heating and travel to hospital. However, they often do not know they are eligible for financial help.
David Murray (49) from Portstewart, who was diagnosed with throat cancer in May 2008, is one of the patients who have benefited from special grants.
“Staying warm was important but fuel prices were just crazy,” he said.
“I went to Citizens Advice Bureau and they were just fantastic. I found out about the grant from Macmillan and they were able to fill in all the forms for me.
“To get the money was a big relief; it paid for my fuel.”
Macmillan’s general manager in Northern Ireland, Heather Monteverde, said they are urging MLAs to support the campaign.
“It is unacceptable that some people are struggling financially because they are not receiving the welfare benefits they are entitled to,” she said.
Call the freephone Macmillan Benefits Helpline on 0800 500 800 or log on to www.macmillan.org.uk for further information.