Tens of thousands of cancer patients have seen their physical and mental health suffer as they face “unacceptable” delays for vital financial support, a leading charity has said.
There needed to be “immediate action” to reduce waiting times for help with extra living costs for people with long-term conditions, according to Macmillan Cancer Support.
Official data shows the average waiting time for this payment is nearly five months.
Around 250,000 people with cancer are believed to receive this financial support from the government called Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
Nearly 30 per cent – or 75,000 – have seen their physical and mental health deteriorate while waiting for it to come through, according to a survey by Macmillan.
Out of those who had to wait more than 11 weeks for their first payment, almost half – 46 per cent – in the poll said their health declined during this time.
Kathy Morse had to wait nearly a year to receive support for her living costs through PIP after being diagnosed with a rare vaginal cancer.
The 55-year-old from Salford, who lost her job in a school during her cancer battle, was rejected for the financial support the first time she applied, causing her even more stress.
“You’re in an uncontrollable situation when you’ve got cancer. You can’t control the illness. And then you’re trying to control your finances and security,” she told The Independent.
Ms Morse added: “I’m not an anxious person. The only time I’ve been anxious was through this PIP system.”
The 55-year-old, who is still out of work, said the PIP payments are a lifeline for her. The extra cash helps her to get to cancer appointments and take classes to keep her moving, she said.
Ciaran Norris from Macmillan Cancer Support said the government needed to take “immediate action” to reduce waiting times for PIP payments.
“It’s unacceptable that people living with cancer are left waiting months on end to receive the financial support they desperately need,” he said. “We are now in a critical situation, which needs bold action to match the scale of the challenge people are facing.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “We understand how difficult and life-altering a cancer diagnosis can be which is why we’re committed to getting people the support they’re entitled to as quickly as possible, and we will backdate awards to ensure no one misses out.
“We support millions of people each year and continue to improve our PIP service by boosting resources and opening up assessments by phone and video, with process times now down by eight weeks on last year.”