Benefits advice for cancer sufferers in the Borders

NHS Borders Cancer Nurse specialist Judith Smith has been awarded with an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queens New Years honours list 2015.

NHS Borders Cancer Nurse specialist Judith Smith has been awarded with an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queens New Years honours list 2015.

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A benefits advice service has helped Borderers with cancer access over £11m in benefits since its launch seven years ago.

The Borders Macmillan Welfare Benefits Partnership has helped more than 3,980 clients access benefits and other entitlements worth £10,997,000 since opening in August 2009.

The partnership, which aims to relieve some of the financial pressures on those affected by cancer, consists of Scottish Borders Council’s (SBC) Welfare Benefits Service, Macmillan Cancer Support, NHS Borders and the Department of Work and Pensions.

It has recently been joined by four local housing associations.

The service has a team of trained advisers who help people affected by cancer to claimbenefits or allowances they are entitled to, represent them at social security tribunals and help them access services such as occupational therapy and home energy advice.

David Stewart, 63, from Galashiels, visited the service after he was diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer in September last year.

He was put in touch with the benefits team by Borders General Hospital staff after being told that he no longer qualified for employment support allowance (ESA).

David was visited by a Macmillan Cancer Support welfare benefits assistant, who helped him with his application form.

“A benefits adviser came down to visit me at the centre when I was having chemotherapy,” said David. “She looked at my prognosis and said there was no reason for the ESA to stop.

“She was there for me when I needed it most.”

Through the benefits team, David was given a Macmillan Grant of £400 to help with additional costs associated with cancer. They also helped him claim the appropriate level of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and extra ESA, as well as supporting his wife, Maritta, to claim carer’s allowance so she could look after him full time.

David said that before he received help, he and his wife struggled with day-to-day living costs such as food and heating.

Judith Smith, Macmillan Cancer nurse consultant for NHS Borders, added: “Our cancer information support service in the Borders Cancer Centre provides patient information on a range of topics, including welfare.

“Often patients are already going through a difficult and upsetting time; having easy access to the benefits team within the centre can truly help them concentrate on their health and wellbeing, and their treatment.”

If you want to know more about the partnership or you think we can help you or someone you know, please contact the Welfare Benefits Service on 01896 661394 or at: wbs@scotborders.gsx.gov.uk or visit the Borders Macmillan Centre at the Borders General Hospital.