Benefits advice service helps cancer patients

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Macmillan Cancer Support and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have formed a partnership that has helped people affected by cancer on the Western Isles to claim around £226,000 of benefits within its first year.

Macmillan invested more than £120,000 in January 2011 to help the Comhairle build on the success of its benefits maximisation programme, Claim It. This support has allowed the programme to provide ninety nine people with financial advice and support to claim benefits that they otherwise may not have known they were entitled to.

Research by Macmillan had found that millions of pounds in disability benefits is going unclaimed by people diagnosed with cancer in Scotland.

Director for Social and Community Services at Comhairle nan Eileen Siar, Iain Macaulay said: “This partnership has proved its value supporting individual people and their families throughout the Western Isles.

“At this time of financial hardship for individuals, families and organisations, maximising income is more important than ever. It is also key that any projects and initiatives provide a good return on any investment.

“I am pleased to see that this project has provided excellent returns, not only financially, but also in terms of reduced stress and anxiety for families at a time of great pressure for them. Working in partnership with Macmillan and other key stakeholders, we are committed to improving and developing services that will help those affected by cancer or long term debilitating illnesses.

“This initiative strengthens the care and support for individuals and their carers, at a time when they are vulnerable and under strain.”

Elspeth Atkinson, Director for Macmillan in Scotland said: “Many cancer patients experience a drop in income because they are too ill to work and this comes at a time when their household bills rise due to expenses such as higher heating bills and travel to and from hospital.

“Anxiety and concern about debt can be a major problem during illness and can cause deteriorating mental and physical health, which is why Macmillan wants to ensure that everyone affected by cancer in the Western Isles get help to access benefits when they need it most.

“Services like Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are essential for helping to ensure that people access everything they are entitled to. The £226,000 which this partnership has helped people claim demonstrates the enormous impact the service is making in helping to alleviate the financial stress associated with a diagnosis of cancer or long term illness.”