Cancer putting patients at risk of losing homes

THE CRIPPLING financial costs of cancer are leaving thousands of patients at risk of losing their homes each year, a charity warns today.

Deanne Wilson who has suffered throat cancer at her home in Leeds. Picture by Anna Gowthorpe
Deanne Wilson who has suffered throat cancer at her home in Leeds. Picture by Anna Gowthorpe

Research by Macmillan Cancer Support claims 250,000 people with the illness in the UK have faced difficulties paying their mortgage or rent.

In a poll of 2,000 people with the illness, two in five struggled with payments, with almost half blaming it on their diagnosis.

The charity says the illness not only leaves people facing a loss of income but also additional financial burdens among them expensive hospital travel costs and increased fuel bills.

It claims 10,000 people with the illness have missed at least one payment and a further 16,000 have been forced to downsize or sell their homes in the past year.

One in four were forced to sell their belongings, one in six have been given or loaned money from friends and family, two in five have dipped into savings and four per cent took out a payday loan.

Mother-of-three Deanne Wilson, 43, of Headlingley, Leeds, was diagnosed with throat cancer in February.

The Leeds City College lecturer underwent two gruelling rounds of chemotherapy and 37 radiotherapy treatments. The treatment, which finished in May, has taken a toll on her voice, left her with severe fatigue and she is now unable to work.

With mortgage payments stacking up, she has been forced to put her home of 19 years in Chapel Allerton, Leeds, up for sale and has moved with her children aged 19, 15 and five into council accommodation.

She said: “A house is more than a material possession. It is a home. It is a necessity. It was a horrible experience. Things just got worse and worse. It is hard enough to deal with the stress of cancer, let alone worrying about losing my home.

“The stress and the poverty literally consume you. We are getting by now, but it is still incredibly difficult. It can be overwhelming.”

She said she knew nothing about the benefits system until she fell ill and at one stage was left without any money for three weeks. She was forced to get help from food banks and seek emergency funding from the council.

She added: “I have worked all my life and all I can say is the way I have been treated is absolutely abysmal. There’s no provision in place for people with cancer.

“It’s a case of ‘These are the rules, this is what you have to stick to, we’re not going to help you’. If I could work, I would – I’d go back tomorrow but I’m not able to.”

Macmillan Cancer Support’s chief executive, Lynda Thomas, claimed the research showed the dire financial situation for many cancer patients.

She said: “We know that each year thousands of cancer patients are left vulnerable and at the brink of financial crisis as they are forced to manage a loss of income and the additional costs of cancer. But to think that thousands of people are being forced to sell their homes just to cope with the crippling costs of the disease is completely heart-breaking.

“Particularly as winter approaches and the weather turns colder, no one should have to face the thought of losing their home simply because they have been diagnosed with cancer. It is vital we act now to support and protect the financially vulnerable from having to foot the bill for their disease.”

She called on the Government, businesses and the NHS to act to ensure the right support is offered to ease the “terrible financial strain on people living with cancer”.

The charity has partnered with Nationwide Building Society to help keep people with cancer in their homes. Since 1993, Nationwide has helped fund vital Macmillan services such as welfare benefits advisers and financial grants to help people living with cancer with mortgage and rental payments. For more information, call Macmillan on 0808 808 00 00.