Money worries and cancer

Work is the main source of income for many people, but if you have cancer, or are a carer, you may need to take time off. However your wages won’t necessarily stop completely because everyone has rights at work. There are laws that mean your employer should help and support you to do your job during and after cancer treatment.

Living with cancer may mean you’re eligible for benefits. For example if you can’t work, have a low income or have care or mobility needs.

Income could also come from health insurance. Some types pay you a regular income and others pay a lump sum. You may also be able to get a terminal illness benefit.

A pension could be a source of your income. This could be a state pension or a personal or occupational pension. You may be able to claim this early if your illness is permanent.

You may be eligible for a grant from Macmillan or another organisation. Grants are usually one-off payments and don’t need to be repaid.

Maximising your income

Cancer can affect your usual income. Planning your budget to reflect these changes will help you to cope. This means working out your outgoings and your spending priorities, and managing your existing accounts. Remember to assess your situation first.

Consider your current monthly income and expenses – and what they would be if you’re unable to work. If your income is low, you may be eligible for state benefits. This can also apply if you are elderly or a carer. If you have a health or life insurance policy, check whether you’re eligible for a pay-out. You may receive a lump-sum that you could invest or use to pay off debts.

Reviewing any savings and investments may help with their everyday management. You could decide to cash them in or stop payments if money is tight. Before cancelling any regular payments, check the terms and conditions for the savings account or investment.

Other financial issues

Cancer can have many financial effects. At one time, there may be several different issues on your mind:

  • paying mortgage, rent or debts
  • ensuring your family could cope if your illness got worse
  • writing a will
  • taking early retirement
  • getting financial advice
  • your tax position
  • making a complaint about financial services

Macmillan cancer support has financial guides who can offer advice on all of these issues. You can contact them on 0808 808 00 00.

Cancer or its treatment can make managing your savings and investments difficult. You may wish to formally involve someone close to you. Consider setting up a third-party mandate or joint account.

Professional financial advisers can also give specific recommendations about products or services that are right for you. If you’re unhappy with a service you’ve already received, complain to the company directly or take your case to the free ombudsman service.

Getting benefits

Cancer can increase your living costs. Benefits may help you cope with these changes.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is in charge of welfare benefits.

There are different types of benefit:

  • contribution-based benefits depend on whether you have paid national insurance (NI)
  • non-contribution based benefits do not depend on whether you have paid NI
  • means-tested benefits depend on your income and savings
  • non-means-tested benefits can be contribution-based or not and don’t depend on your income or savings

There is a benefit cap to the amount of benefits you can claim. You may not be entitled to all of the benefits if you are a non-UK national. You can contact Citizens Advice for more information.

If you go into hospital, you should notify the DWP as it may affect your benefits. You can contact a welfare rights adviser for more information.

Visit or HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)

Last updated:
03 July 2024

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