Money and benefits

Cancer and its treatments can bring considerable additional costs like transport to appointments, childcare, pet-care or heating costs. 

You may be too unwell to work – due to the cancer itself, the effects of treatment, the psychological impact of your diagnosis or a mixture of these things.

The main support through this time comes from social security benefits. Some of these will be assessed on household income and savings, but many benefits are not means-tested and can be paid regardless of your financial circumstances. This is on top of any income from work, self employment or in retirement.

Maggie's can help with money worries

51ɫAPPing out which benefits might apply to you, and claiming them can feel like navigating through a maze – but we're here to help.

You can get individual advice about your situation from one of our experienced Benefits Advisors at your nearest Maggie's centre.

A Maggie51ɫAPPs Benefits Advisor can help you to:

  • understand what benefits or other support applies to you if you have cancer or are caring for someone who does
  • fill out application forms
  • discuss issues that come up as you go through the claims process or if your circumstances change over time.

What could you claim?

Universal Credit and legacy benefits

Universal Credit (UC) was introduced in 2013 as a way of simplifying the benefits system. It merges six of the most important means-tested benefits and tax credits into one and won't be fully rolled out until Sept 2024.

UC mainly affects people of working age who are entitled to means-tested financial support. This could be because of a low or perhaps temporarily reduced income like, for example, if you cannot work because you have cancer.

UC takes over as both a general cash top up, whether you are earning or not and as the way of extra support for dependent children and to help pay the rent.

The six benefits that merged to create UC are often called the “legacy benefits” by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). If you are already receiving these then you stay as you are for now, unless you either choose to switch to UC or you may have to if certain changes occur. Do get independent advice first.  in future, you will be contacted by the DWP and then will have to change to UC. 

The six legacy benefits and how they might help you after a cancer diagnosis:

  • Income-related ESA help if you are unwell and unable to work
  • Income Support can be helpful for carers
  • Income-based JSA can help when you are ready to look for work in recovery
  • Working Tax Credit helps ease back into work 
  • Child Tax Credit helps if you have dependent children or young people 
  • Housing Benefit helps pay the rent, whether you are in work or not.

BLOG: What is Universal Credit (UC)?

Sickness benefits – benefits while too unwell to work

These are benefits to give you a basic income to live on while you are off sick from work – whether you were employed, self-employed or looking for work when illness strikes. These include: Statory sick pay (SSP) from an employer, a changing Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (when unwell). 

BLOG: Sickness benefits overview and SSP

Benefits if you are of pension age

Benefits are becoming increasingly different according to whether you have crossed that line between "working age" and "pension age" – a line which for new claims is currently edging up from 65 to 66.

There is additional help in addition to the state pension for those facing cancer or any other long-term health challenge.

BLOG: Benefits in pension age

From your local council

  • Housing benefits: If you rent your home, then you may be entitled to Housing Benefit to help with the rent if you are still getting “legacy benefits” or if you claim Pension Credit. If you get Universal Credit then help with the rent will usually be included as part of your claim.  
  • Council Tax Support/Reduction: Anyone on a low income who has council tax to pay may qualify. It's not being merged with Universal Credit so it does need to be claimed separately
  • Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPS)This can top-up your housing benefit or Universal Credit – whichever is your main support for rent. If you rent from a private landlord, you may need a top-up because of restrictions that housing benefit/Universal Credit can't cover. If you live in a housing association or council property you may be entitled to extra help with rent because of the “bedroom tax”.

Tax credits from HMRC

There are two parts to a tax credit claim from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC):

  • Working Tax Credit (WTC) for those in low paid work
  • Child Tax credit (CTC) for help with children, whether parents are in work or not

New claims for tax credits are not possible now unless you are getting a “severe disability premium” within a legacy benefit.  If you aren't you claim universal credit instead.

Most people already receiving tax credits remain on them for now.  If you are getting either tax credit,  you can still add the other, as this would not be a new claim.

Help with health costs

There is help available with the extra costs that come with cancer like, for example, travel to hospital, prescription charges in England, dental and optical charges and the costs of wigs and fabric supports.

BLOG: Help with health costs

Disability benefits – help with daily living and getting around

You may be able to get extra help in addition to all other benefits, at any stage of your illness and regardless of any other income, savings or your National Insurance record.

These disability benefits are paid for extra difficulties for people with a long-term illness or disability. This is regardless of whether these stop you from working or not, so these can be useful both during treatment and on a return to work.  

An award of a disability benefit can also enable a carer to claim Carers Allowance, it is never taken off other benefits and can sometimes increase entitlement to other benefits when on a low income. 

Disability benefits are age-related and include:

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP), if you are aged over 16 and under pension age when you first claim 
  • Attendance Allowance (AA), if you are aged over pension age when you first claim 
  • Disability living allowance (for children) if aged under 16 

Disability benefits are changing in Scotland as the three benefits above  become new Disability Assistance benefits between 2020 and 2021. The same basic criteria apply (so no re-assessments) - but the aim is to make claims and assessments far less daunting.

BLOG: Extra disability benefits and cancer

Benefits for carers

Some benefits are “means tested”, and only apply if you are on a low income. However, most are “non-means tested” and so can apply regardless of your financial circumstances:

  • The main benefit for carers is Carer’s Allowance from the Department of Work and Pensions. 
  • This has been topped up in Scotland by a Carers allowance supplement from April 2019 administered by the devolved Social Security Scotland.  The main carers allowance will devolve and merge with the new supplement into a new carers assistance form 2022
  • If you are a carer on a low income you may also be entitled to have that Carer's Allowance topped up by either Income Support (IS) or Universal Credit (UC). These are claimed jointly with any partner, so their income and savings are also taken into account, in a joint claim. If you live with the person you care for and they are your partner or child -– then your means tested claim will be bound up with theirs. But this would not be the case if you moved in with a friend parent to offer care – you would remain separate “benefit units”
  • Other help for low income may also apply to help with specific costs large or small, from rent to fares to hospital
  • You can be a carer and have your own health issues too. There is no contradiction between claiming as a carer and also claiming a “disability benefit” (for additional costs) and or a “sickness benefit” for limited capability to work yourself.

BLOG: carer's allowance

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