Coventry CA: delivering benefits advice during ‘lockdown’ for those affected by cancer

The Macmillan Coventry and Warwickshire Benefits Advice Team, has moved rapidly to home working to continue to advise cancer patients and their families, through the Covid 19 lockdown. The team from Coventry Citizens Advice, working in partnership with Macmillan, have been helping cancer patients and their families navigate a rapidly changing benefits system.

James Lawrence, Health and Wellbeing Project Manager said “I am really proud of the way my team have adapted to home working. Because of social distancing rules we can’t currently offer face to face work, but continue to fully support cancer patients and their families with telephone and email advice. Covid19 has definitely increased the vulnerability of cancer patients, and the complexity of the decisions they are facing”.

Through the first 6 weeks of lockdown the advice team worked with 158 clients on casework, as well as taking simple enquiries from those affected by cancer. Bev Foy, Macmillan Benefits Adviser said “I speak to people daily who are thrilled we are still open for business. Some are accessing benefits for the first time ever. Some are self employed and cannot run their businesses. Many want to know whether they can be furloughed. They desperately need our advice. We have the latest government information and are uniquely placed to help”.

Over the past financial year the team have secured over £3m of financial gains for around 1800 clients, averaging at £1600 per client. The team from Coventry Citizens Advice are able to run benefits checks, advise clients and apply for benefits on their behalf. For those affected by cancer filling in 100’s of pages of forms, or online applications can be overwhelming.

Here is one example of two clients the Advice Team were able to help. They had an enquiry from a couple who were self employed and together ran a mobile fish and chip business in the West Midlands. One of the couple was receiving treatment for cancer. They had been forced to suspend their business due to the Coronavirus outbreak, and had no income. The team ran a benefits check. With knowledge of latest government Covid19 contingency measures, the team were able to assure them that they were entitled to a government grant that would pay 80% of their previous profits. While waiting for that grant, the adviser put in a claim for universal credit for the husband and new style ESA for the client. The couple were also entitled to a council tax reduction and access to the Big Difference Scheme. The adviser secured a £350 Macmillan Grant for them, and helped the couple apply for benefits worth around £165 a week (worth £8.5k a year), with one of payments of around £700. The couple felt reassured and relieved and were very happy they had been referred to the Macmillan Coventry and Warwickshire Benefits Advice Team.

If you live in Coventry or Warwickshire and are affected by cancer please phone 024 76252050 or email for more information about the service.

James Lawrence – Project Manager