Your whole world is turned upside down as you come to terms with the news and prepare to help your child battle this terrible disease. The emotional impact is bad enough but the financial impact can be severe too. That’s why this September, during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, cancer charity CLIC Sargent is focusing on the financial impact of cancer.
The financial cost of cancer
According to CLIC Sargent, 10 children and young people will get the news today that they have cancer. Treatment can last for a number of years which can put a huge emotional and financial strain on families. One parent might have to give up work, take unpaid leave or reduce their working hours to care for their child whilst they’re being treated. According to CLIC Sargent research, 42% of parents stopped working as a result of their child’s cancer diagnosis, almost half (49%) experienced a loss of earnings, and almost a third (29%) felt they were able to do less work. This means costs often go up while income goes down.
Some financial support is available. For example, parents can apply for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) which is currently between £21.80 and £139.75 a week (gov.uk website). But applying for this can be a stressful process and involves assessments to check a child’s eligibility. Support from charities may also be available. For example, CLIC Sargent gives families a grant of £170 to help with costs. But the costs associated with active treatment can be significant:
- Parents spent an average of £600 a month in additional expenses during their child’s active treatment, with the top expenses being travel, extra food and other extras like toys and treats.
- Three in five parents (61%) had accumulated some form of debt as a result of their child’s illness, with one in six (17%) of those having borrowed over £5,000.
- A fifth (19%) of parents who were employed at the time of diagnosis took over a year of unpaid leave during their child’s treatment.
- Three-quarters (76%) of parents and over half (54%) of young people surveyed felt that managing their finances during treatment caused them additional stress and anxiety.
Even with state benefits and other financial support, almost half (45%) of parents said they had a shortfall between their income and outgoings due to the additional costs of their child’s cancer. On average this shortfall was £407 a month.
We know that talking about children’s critical illness is difficult as it’s such an emotive topic – no parent wants to think about their child getting ill. But if their child did fall ill, they wouldn’t want the additional stress that financial pressures would cause them. That’s where critical illness cover can help.
When designing our propositions we consider potential vulnerable customers – like parents of children with cancer. That’s why our Critical Illness Cover comes with Children’s Critical Illness Cover as standard, at no extra cost. This automatically covers any children your clients have or may have from birth to age 21. We pay out 50% of the cover amount up to £25,000. This financial support can be a welcome relief in difficult circumstances. And unfortunately they happen more often than you might think – our 2015 critical illness claims stats show that children’s critical illness was the fifth most common reason for claim.
But we understand that money isn’t everything. That’s why all our protection plans sold through an adviser come with our Helping Hand service which offers support for your clients and their families (spouse/partner and children). This can be invaluable when the emotional burden can become too much for parents as it gives them access to a personal nurse adviser to talk to. But it also offers them practical support too such as providing information on coping with a child with cancer.
Recognising that childhood illness is such a difficult thing to go through, we’ll also shortly be launching a support service for parents and families who have ill children. Depending on individual circumstances this might be recommending local support groups or relevant charities that could offer advice or assistance, or pinpointing those who can help navigate the complex state benefits process.
You can find out more about Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and read CLIC Sargent’s full report on cancer costs on clicsargent.org.uk.
Source for all figures is CLIC Sargent Cancer Costs report September 2016.