Financial Support for Cancer Patients: A Comprehensive Guide

One of the most worrying things I found with my cancer diagnosis was the dilemma of working through treatment or taking a break from work and ending up with no income. After a conversation with a Macmillan Citizen Advice representative, I realised leaving work may be an option as financial help is available. I have listed some of the general benefits available to cancer patients below. It’s always worth contacting Macmillan in your area to see if you can get some advice tailored to your financial circumstances.

1. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP):

If a cancer patient needs to take time off work due to illness, they may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). As of 2023, individuals are entitled to SSP if they meet the following criteria:

– Have average earnings of at least £120 per week

– Provide the necessary documents, such as a fit note from their healthcare professional

– Have provided the required notification to their employer within specific deadlines

SSP provides a weekly income of £96.35 (as of April 2023), which can help ease the financial strain during treatment and recovery.

2. Employment and Support Allowance (ESA):

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) may provide further support for individuals who cannot work for extended periods or face difficulty returning to work. There are two types of ESA:

a) Contributory ESA: This applies to individuals who have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions in the past two to three years leading up to their diagnosis. The amount varies based on circumstances and whether the person is in the assessment phase, the work-related activity group, or the support group.

b) Income-related ESA: This may be available to individuals who do not qualify for or have exhausted the Contributory ESA. It is means-tested and considers the claimant’s income, savings, and their partner’s earnings, if applicable.

3. Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Disability Living Allowance (DLA):

Cancer patients with additional care and mobility needs may be eligible for either Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to assist with daily living and transport expenses.

PIP gradually replaced DLA in 2013; from 2023, it will be the primary benefit for new claims. PIP eligibility is assessed based on how much the illness affects an individual’s ability to carry out certain activities or perform daily tasks. The amount awarded will depend on these assessments.

4. Universal Credit (UC):

Universal Credit (UC) is a government benefit designed to provide financial support for those on low incomes, including cancer patients facing financial difficulty. UC combines various benefits, such as Housing Benefit and Child Tax Credit, into a single monthly payment.

To determine the amount, UC takes into account an individual’s income, savings, and any eligible housing costs. Cancer patients who cannot work or work limited hours may qualify for this benefit.

Benefit calculators

Look at a benefits calculator to give you some idea of what you may be entitled to, which can help you decide about work. 


A national charity providing practical help to people who are struggling financially.  

Money Saving Expert

Benefits Calculator: What am I entitled to – MoneySavingExpert

Macmillan Benefits Calculator

Benefit calculator (

Personal benefits advice:

Macmillan Welfare Rights Advice

Welfare rights advice | Macmillan Cancer Support

Citizens Advice 

Benefits – Citizens Advice


Life insurance and pensions

This is a quick note from me about life insurance and pensions. If you have either, now is the time to fish out the paperwork and check the small print. Many pension schemes offer medical retirement, which can be taken when there is a terminal diagnosis or long-term side effects of the cancer or treatment which leaves you unable to work. It is always worth checking any life insurance policies as people often need help remembering what is covered.

Victoria Walsh

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