16 Nov 2022 Policy

Leukaemia UK and Leukaemia Care urge benefits to be raised in line with inflation

Leukaemia UK and Leukaemia Care have written to the Chancellor to highlight the additional financial pressures faced by blood cancer patients and their families, ahead of the Autumn Statement this Thursday.

A leukaemia diagnosis adds considerable financial pressures to patients and their families, on top of the emotional and physical challenges they are already facing. The recent cost of living crisis has only increased this pressure further.

On Thursday 17th November the Chancellor will deliver his Autumn Statement. The statement provides an update on the government’s plans for the economy including taxation and spending. It is also an opportunity to address the unmet financial needs of leukaemia patients and their families requiring support during this difficult period of their lives.

Charities Leukaemia UK and Leukaemia Care are increasingly concerned by the insufficient economic support for many in the blood cancer community. Ahead of the Autumn Statement, they have written to the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt urging him to raise benefits in line with inflation. When the financial needs of leukaemia patients and their loved ones go unmet this can have a significant impact on quality of life and longer-term health.

The financial difficulties facing leukaemia patients

Many patients are unable to work due to their need to isolate and/or to undergo difficult treatments for long periods of time. Simultaneously, leukaemia comes with hidden costs which include travel expenses to and from hospital, food costs associated with specialist diets, and – due to the side effects of some treatments – additional use of gas and electricity to keep warm.

99% of respondents to Leukaemia UK’s 2021 survey reported that their diagnosis had a small, medium or large long term negative impact on their financial wellbeing. 97% also reported a negative effect on their financial wellbeing in the short term.

Findings from a 2017 Leukaemia Care survey indicated that of respondents who were in work or education before diagnosis, 45% had to stop working or education altogether and 21% said they had to reduce their involvement.

The need for government support

Inevitably, after developing leukaemia people who never previously claimed benefits find themselves needing to do so, and those already claiming can find themselves under increased financial pressure.

This situation is very likely to be further exacerbated in the light of the cost-of-living crisis, particularly for those from poorer backgrounds and particularly if benefits are not raised in line with inflation.

Analysis from The Resolution Foundation recently concluded that if benefits were uprated by earnings (5.5%) rather than inflation (10.1%) next year, a single unemployed adult would lose £185.

As part of our continued efforts to address this situation, Leukaemia UK and Leukaemia Care have been working together to provide financial support for patients and their families and have recently launched a new Cost of Living with Leukaemia Fund (LINK), providing one-off payments to people affected by leukaemia in need of financial assistance. However, there are many more people in need of support and a longer term, policy-driven solution is desperately needed. A national level response led by Government is therefore essential.

Investment in healthcare services and workforce

It is also vitally important that the government continues to invest in health and care services and budgets for a health and care workforce that is able to meet demand. This will be crucial in ensuring the promised 10 Year Cancer Plan is able to deliver effectively for both patients and healthcare professionals.

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