SB Connect Winter 2016

£11m benefits aid for cancer patients

A benefits advice service, developed in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, has helped people with cancer in the Borders access almost £11m in benefits since its launch seven years ago.

The Borders Macmillan Welfare Benefits Partnership has helped more than 3,980 clients access benefits and other entitlements worth £10,997,000 since opening in August 2009.

The partnership, made up of SBC’s Welfare Benefits Service, Macmillan Cancer Support, NHS Borders and the Department of Work and Pensions, has recently been joined by four local housing associations: Eildon Housing Association, Berwickshire Housing Association, Scottish Borders Housing Association and Waverley Housing.

The service has a team of trained advisers who help people affected by cancer to claim benefits or allowances they are entitled to, represent them at social security tribunals and help them access services such as occupational therapy and home energy advice.

David Stewart, 63, from Galashiels was put in touch with the service after being told that he no longer qualified for employment support allowance (ESA). He said: “A benefits adviser came down to visit me at the centre when I was having chemotherapy. She looked at my prognosis and said there was no reason for the ESA to stop.”

Through the benefits team, David was given a Macmillan Grant of £400 to help with additional costs associated with cancer. They also helped him claim the appropriate level of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and extra ESA as well as supporting his wife, Maritta, to claim Carers Allowance so she could look after him full time.

David said that before he received help with his benefits from Macmillan, he and his wife struggled with day-to-day living costs such as food and heating. “Since the money has come through, life has been a lot more comfortable and less stressful. It’s one less thing to worry about,” he said.

Councillor Frances Renton, SBC’s Executive Member for Social Work and Housing, said: “When someone is going through the life-changing experience of a cancer diagnosis with all the difficulties that this brings, the last thing they need is to have the added stress of financial worries.

“The support that this service provides is absolutely vital and it is deeply encouraging to hear just how many people have been helped over the past seven years.”

For more information, contact the Welfare Benefits Service on 01896 661394 or at: wbs@scotborders.gsx.gov.uk You can also visit the Borders Macmillan Centre at the Borders General Hospital.