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Cancer costs more than a child, says Macmillan Cancer Support

  • Cancer costs nearly £1,500 more a year than having a child
  • Most patients are £570 worse off each month, while parents spend £448.41
  • Macmillan Cancer Support is calling on the Government to introduce a legal duty of care for the banking sector to help vulnerable customers

Cancer is more expensive than a child, reveals research by Macmillan Cancer Support.

The charity warns the financial impact of having cancer is costing many patients nearly £1,500 more a year than it does to have a child.

Macmillan is now calling on the Government to make it a legal obligation for banks to have a duty of care for vulnerable customers, such as people living with the disease, before they reach crisis point.

This could include flexibility on mortgage payments, interest freezes on credit cards and loans or ensuring customers are signposted to financial help as early as possible.

It reveals the majority of cancer patients (83%) are £570 worse off on average every month as a result of their diagnosis.

Research shows it costs parents a monthly average of £448.41 per child under the age of 11.

This makes cancer £121.59 more expensive than parenthood every month – and a staggering £1,459.08 more costly a year.

The cost of cancer comes from a combination of patients being too ill to work and additional outgoings, such as paying to travel to and from hospital for appointments.

Cancer and its treatments can also leave patients feeling the cold more and one in five (21%) see their yearly energy bill increase by almost £200 on average.

The costs incurred by having a child include food (£86.85)1 and schooling (£38.75), as well as holidays (£60.69), toys (£33.18) and activities (£45.31).

Macmillan provides benefits advice and grants to cancer patients – giving out a record £13.9 million in 2017 alone  – to help cover the extra costs of their diagnosis.

But it says everyone must play their role to stop more people falling into financial difficulty and the banking sector is a vital part of that picture.

Despite there being pockets of good practice, such as Macmillan’s own work with partners Lloyds Banking Group and Nationwide Building Society, the charity’s research reveals that just 1 in 9 (11%) people with cancer actually tell their bank about their diagnosis.

This is typically because they didn’t think their bank would be able to help them, or they were worried about the consequences of telling their bank.

That’s why the charity is urging the Government use the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill, which is currently going through parliament, to change the law so that banks and building societies have a legal obligation to act in the best interests of their customers, particularly if they are vulnerable. It believes this would encourage cancer patients to seek help from their bank earlier, before they risk spiralling into debt.

The introduction of a duty of care could involve banks providing specialised and tailored support, such as greater flexibility around products including mortgages, credit cards and loans. This would enable cancer patients to better manage the financial impact of their diagnosis.

The charity’s research found that a quarter of cancer patients who told their bank about their diagnosis felt dissatisfied with the help they received. Macmillan believes a duty of care would also give important clarity to the banking sector on the support they should provide and help ensure consistency.

Mother of three Christine Martindale’s youngest son, Jonny, was 10 when she was diagnosed with cancer of the parotid, part of the salivary gland.

The 60-year-old former social worker from Falmouth, Cornwall, said: “I was in the middle of moving house when I was diagnosed and there came a point when I thought, ‘I just can’t cope’. I had to withdraw my house from the market and lost money on a survey for another home.

“My finances continued to dwindle and I had to borrow from my daughter, friends and family to cover my expenses. I even got a lodger to help cover my mortgage.

“When I was pregnant I could prepare for the arrival of my children and it was an experience I could share. But cancer was never planned and it was not foreseen. People didn’t gather around me like they did for a baby – I felt in isolation.”

By 2020 almost half of the population will have a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime leaving more and more people at risk of financial difficulty.

Lynda Thomas, Macmillan Cancer Support’s Chief Executive said: “Cancer does not wait until you get a promotion at work or until you have enough savings in the bank. It arrives unexpectedly, shaking up everything from your health to your finances.

“Without the right support, the sudden financial impact of the disease can be crippling.

“Macmillan can’t plug these growing gaps alone. The Financial Guidance and Claims Bill presents a unique opportunity for the Government to support banks and other financial services providers to make a positive difference to the lives of people living with cancer. Progress has been made, but this change in the law will provide more consistent support and prevent vulnerable customers spiralling into debt.”

For more information visit www.macmillan.org.uk/bankingonchange

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