Charity sees a rise in crisis calls as thousands of people with cancer in Wales ‘struggle to survive due to devastating financial hardship’

Charity sees a rise in crisis calls as thousands of people with cancer in Wales ‘struggle to survive due to devastating financial hardship’

Today, Macmillan Cancer Support is launching an emergency appeal as it warns that thousands of people with cancer in Wales are in financial distress, with the hidden costs of a cancer diagnosis, coupled with the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, pushing people to ‘extreme measures’. 

The leading cancer support charity has seen a worrying rise in people with cancer across the UK contacting its support line with money worries who are also presenting with significant mental health concerns, a 33% increase so far in 2023 compared with 2022i. This comes as new data from the charity covering the past 18 months reveals that around one in five (22%) people with cancer in Wales are living on a low income and, among this group, one in three (35%) have been struggling to pay their basic living costsii – equating to an estimated 14,000 people across Walesiii

Further data from Macmillan shows that almost two in five (37%) people with cancer in Wales who are struggling in the cost-of-living crisis are being forced to cut back on basic hygiene or cleaning essentials, such as soap, toothpaste or disinfectantiv. Some are neglecting their nutrition, warmth and hygiene and taking further drastic measures to cut costs such as skipping meals, washing using buckets, or missing hospital appointmentsv. Macmillan warns that this could have serious implications for people’s health and potentially impact their chances of survival.   

Previous research from Macmillan found that cancer can come with a significant and often unexpected price tag – four in five people with cancer in the UK experience a financial impact, which for those affected reaches almost £900 a month on average in addition to their usual outgoingsvi. This could include the extra travel needed to get to and from appointments, higher energy costs as people urgently try to stay warm during treatment, or the loss of income with many people unable to work. 

These extra costs, on top of the rising cost of living, are having a devastating impact and Macmillan warns that this could be the hardest winter yet for many people with cancer in the UK after what has already been a very challenging year. Since the start of January, Macmillan has given out more than £800,000 in grants to more than 2,300 people with cancer in Walesvii.  

Richard Manson at Macmillan Cancer Support talks to people with cancer day in day out who are being forced to make devastating financial choices and take drastic measures to survive. Richard says: 

“Far too many people going through a cancer diagnosis are also living in severe financial distress, being forced into making heart-breaking choices and struggling to survive. Every day we hear about the extreme measures people are resorting to, such as washing in a bucket to save on bills or having to decide between feeding their children or travelling to life-saving appointments. 

“For tens of thousands of people with cancer, this crisis is not going away, in fact it’s only getting worse. At Macmillan we’re doing everything we can to provide vital help to those who need it, but we can’t do it alone. We are almost entirely funded by incredibly generous donations and with more support this winter we can reach even more people at a time when they’ve never needed us more.” 

As part of the charity’s Emergency Grants Appeal and following the start of the busy Christmas shopping period, Macmillan is launching its first ‘Winter Gift Guide’. The Gift Guide highlights the huge variety of essentials many people living with cancer need but can’t afford, such as blankets to keep warm during treatment or hygiene products, and the vital impact a Macmillan Grant can have. Macmillan Grants are one-off payments to help with the extra costs that living with cancer can bring. The charity is urging anyone who can to donate to its Emergency Grants Appeal via the Gift Guide to help Macmillan support even more people living with cancer during the difficult winter ahead.  

Anyone who may be worried about the financial impact of cancer can find out more about the variety of support available at www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/impacts-of-cancer/benefits-and-financial-support.  

Key facts: 

·        Among people with cancer in Wales, 22% have a total household income below £20,000 a year, and among this group, one in three (35%) are struggling to pay their basic living costsviii. A common measure used when talking about poverty is having 60% or less of median income, which in the UK would currently equate to around £18,000 a yearix, suggesting the majority of people with cancer in Wales who have an income of under £20,000 a year and are struggling to pay their living costs are likely to be living in poverty.  

 People with cancer in Wales with a household income of under £20,000 are more than twice as likely to be struggling to pay their basic living costs as those with a household income of £20k or more (35% compared with 15%)x

·        Previous research from the charity shows that among people with cancer in Wales who have experienced increases in their day-to-day costs, two in five (37%) have been cutting back on the products needed to keep either themselves or their homes cleanxi – risking their personal hygiene and basic dignity at a time when their physical and mental health is already at risk. 

So far this year Macmillan’s Support Line has answered more than 64,000 telephone queries about people’s money worries, a 12% increase on the same period in 2022 and a 31% increase on 2021xii. There have also been more than 84,000 visits to the main financial information page on the Macmillan websitexiii

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