Ask the Nurse: Cost of living – support for myeloma patients

We’re aware of the struggles people may face due to the rising cost of living.

We know that living with myeloma can affect finances. This could be due to reduced work hours, increased transport costs for hospital visits or the cost of adapting your house. With rising energy bills and increases in other living costs, the impact on your finances might feel greater. If you’re concerned about a change in your finances, it can be difficult to know where to turn, but support is available.

This month’s blog covers some of the questions asked on the Myeloma Infoline about the financial support available to cancer patients.

Are there any benefits I may be entitled to?

There are several benefits and discounts available to help people manage day-to-day finances. Eligibility for these benefits may be affected by your savings, overall household income, the benefits and pensions you and anyone living with you are currently receiving, your outgoings (e.g. your rent, mortgage, or childcare payments), and your age.

Macmillan Cancer Support has developed a free, anonymous benefit calculator to help cancer patients and their families find benefits they are eligible for. It takes 10 minutes to fill out and has information about how to apply for benefits.

You can read further information about benefits you may be eligible for in our Benefits and Financial Support Infosheet.

Are there any schemes that can help me pay my rising energy bills?

Energy prices have increased a lot recently and, as a result, a number of support schemes have been put in place.

Navigating the help available can be confusing, so we have compiled information on support from different organisations relating to the energy crisis.

Help from the UK Government

From October 2022, all households in England, Scotland and Wales will have their energy bills reduced by £400. This will happen automatically, so there is no need to apply for this. (Beware of fraudulent communications asking you to give personal details to claim the discount).

The UK Government has confirmed that homes in Northern Ireland will also get a £400 discount through the Northern Ireland Energy Bills Support Scheme, but details of when this will be delivered are unclear.

From November 2022, people in England, Scotland, and Wales can apply for the Warm Home Discount Scheme. If you are eligible, the money is a one-off discount applied directly to your electricity bill.

In Northern Ireland, people can apply for the Affordable Warmth Scheme. This grant offers people help with a range of energy efficiency measures such as insulation, draught-proofing, boiler repair or window replacement.

Help from energy suppliers

A lot of energy suppliers offer support to people who are finding it hard to pay their energy bills. This includes things like assistance funds and services.

The British Gas Energy Trust is an independent charitable trust that supports people across England, Wales and Scotland who need help paying their bills. This support isn’t limited by who your energy supplier is.

Some energy suppliers have their own assistance funds. These include:

Let your energy provider know your situation (e.g. your consumption may go up, or your income will go down if you have to take sick leave from work) and you are struggling to afford your bills. Your supplier has to help you come to a solution and must offer payment plans you can afford. You can also ask for ’emergency credit’ if you use a prepay meter and can’t top up.

All energy providers have a vulnerability register, called the Priority Services Register, that can provide extra protection and support for cancer patients, including myeloma patients. This free service can help people in vulnerable situations. You need to contact your energy supplier or network operator to get on the register.

Being on the register can provide you with extra help, such as:

  • Advance notice of planned power cuts – your network operator can tell you about planned power cuts if you rely on your energy supply for medical reasons. For example, when they plan engineering work
  • Priority support in an emergency – network operators could provide heating and cooking facilities if you are cut off from supply

Help and advice from independent organisations

Citizens Advice has further information about benefits, grants and help you may be able to get from the government and energy suppliers. You can also call or arrange an appointment at your local bureau for additional help finding and applying for benefits.

Ofgem, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, also has lots of information on its website, including how to get help if you can’t afford your energy bills.

Are there any other ways I can get financial assistance?

You may be able to apply for discounts on other costs, such as your council tax, because of ongoing treatments or loss of income.

You may also qualify for help with dental care, eye care, prescriptions and travel costs for hospital appointments. Check your eligibility with the NHS Help with Health Costs survey.

Some charities offer grants to help with financial difficulties. For example, Macmillan Grants are a one-off payment of £350 to help with the extra costs that living with cancer can bring, from rising energy bills to the cost of travel to and from the hospital.

Many charities give grants based on your circumstances, such as what work you currently do or did in the past, or if you are suffering from a particular health condition. You can use the Turn2Us Grant Search to find any grants that might be available to you.

For more information about finances, you can talk to one of our Myeloma Information Specialists about any aspect of myeloma by calling our Myeloma Infoline on 0800 980 3332 or emailing the Ask the Nurse email service.

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