Thanks a million - the Hartlepool team which eases the money burden for cancer patients

Val Evens Macmillan centre advisor. (Centre) with Alison Thompson senior Macmillan advisor (left) and Angie Goodall benefits advisor Picture by FRANK REID
Val Evens Macmillan centre advisor. (Centre) with Alison Thompson senior Macmillan advisor (left) and Angie Goodall benefits advisor Picture by FRANK REID

A tiny team of Hartlepool advisors has won millions of pounds in benefits for cancer patients.

But the deluge of people coming forward is so great, they’ve had to set up a waiting list to cope with demand.

They have no idea at all about what benefits may be available to them. They just worry about how they will be able to pay their mortgage, rent and bills with a reduced income, often for a lengthy period

Val Evens

Hundreds of cancer patients are turning to the West View-based Macmillan Advice Service team for help because they are desperately worried over how they’ll pay the bills.

Latest figures show the level of benefits the team won for people with cancer between April 2017 to March 2018.

* £1.9million in regular ongoing payments;

* One-off payments (such as grants, compensation and arrears totalled £1.8million):

* Money applied for, but not yet confirmed, is more than £4 million.

The numbers of people with cancer coming forward for help, is just as staggering. There were 346 appointments at the West View Advice and Resource Centre in the last year alone.

The team made 411 home visits and saw 128 people either in hospital or some other outreach location.

All that support was from a team of one specialist for Hartlepool, one person covering energy advice for the whole of the Tees Valley, and one part-time advisor for North Tees.

Bosses said they will always try their very best to help anyone in need of support despite the flood of requests.

In the service’s annual report, Macmillan Centre Manager Val Evens said most clients “have no idea at all about what benefits may be available to them. They just worry about how they will be able to pay their mortgage, rent and bills with a reduced income, often for a lengthy period of time.”

She added: “Clients have enough to worry about trying to deal with their illness and treatment. They don’t want the worry of money too. Hopefully, this is something we can assist with and ease some pressure.”

In the last year alone, the West View team saw patients with 32 different types of cancer.

Val added: “We see clients at different stages of their cancer journey, some clients we will see just as they have been diagnosed, some will be later on, after treatment or surgery. There are some clients who are in a desperate life changing situation, and if we can help them even the slightest bit, then we’ve done our job to the best of our abilities.”

She said the Welfare Benefits Advice section of the team was over-subscribed and added: “We can not meet the demand. It is sad that there are so many people in need of advice.

“Our full-time advisor sees 20 people a week and has bookings in advance of a month - and that’s just for Hartlepool.

“We also have a Macmillan energy advisor who is always fully booked.”

The team provides two different types of advice:

l One is on benefits and the money that cancer patients may be able to claim.

l The other is energy advice. Val explained: “People undergoing treatment are usually cold, even in a heatwave.”

The energy support takes three forms. One helps people to switch tariffs, one covers the best use of energy and the third looks at a specialised Macmillan tariff which is available to certain people in specific circumstances.

For more information and to arrange an appointment, contact (01429) 271294.