A new financial counselling service, set up by Cancer Council NSW, has provided $5.2 million worth of financial support to 111 cancer patients and carers throughout the Hunter and Central Coast regions.
The service, funded by Greater Charitable Foundation, provides a dedicated face-to-face counsellor to deliver support tailored to the needs of cancer patients and their families. Prior to this, there had been a telephone-only support service for those based outside of Metro and Greater Western Sydney.
The financial counsellors work closely with clients to provide short-term emergency assistance and financial advice to help alleviate some of the monetary stress that often comes with a cancer diagnosis where a person is unable to work.
Cancer Council NSW Financial Counsellor, Alka Bisen, coordinates the service across the region.
“When someone is diagnosed with cancer, they may face a number of complex financial issues throughout their journey, with around one in three cancer patients reporting some form of financial stress,” Alka said.
“I believe that a person who is affected by cancer should be focusing on their health and families. Spending time worrying about money impacts negatively on their ability to do this. Our financial counsellor helps patients work out a budget, as well as negotiate with creditors and advocate on behalf of cancer patients to help reduce or manage debts such as utility bills and credit cards fees.”
One person who knows all too well the financial stress a cancer diagnosis can bring is Central Coast resident Lynne, whose husband Geoffrey was diagnosed with prostate cancer in March 2018.
“Since Geoffrey’s diagnosis and subsequent hospital stay, he has been unable to work which has left us with a significant decline in income. It was really hard for us financially,” said Lynne.
“Our Financial Counsellor, Angeline, was so supportive. After the first session she started working with our bank, car finance company and helped us apply to Centrelink. There was so much going on at this time, we wouldn’t have thought to do these things ourselves. She also taught us to budget, which highlighted that we were spending a lot more than we were making!
“I would highly recommend the service, even if someone feels they can cope financially, just to find out what they’re entitled to in terms of benefits and help that they might not be aware of.”
In the Hunter and Central Coast regions alone, it is estimated that over 9,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer in a single year.
To find out more about how you can access the new service, visit https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/get-support/legal-and-financial-assistance/ or call 13 11 20.