Borders housing associations join benefits advice service for cancer patients

Being given benefits adviceA benefits advice service, which has recently been joined by four local housing associations, has helped people with cancer in the Borders access over £11 million in benefits since its launch seven years ago.

Developed in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, the Borders Macmillan Welfare Benefits Partnership has helped over 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.

A team of trained advisers help people affected by cancer to claim benefits 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.

The partnership now also includes Eildon Housing Association, Berwickshire Housing Association, Scottish Borders Housing Association and Waverley Housing who were keen to join to enable them to provide a more informed and inclusive service for any of their tenants affected by cancer.

In a joint statement, the four associations said: “Since joining the Partnership, our staff have undergone cancer awareness training which has given them a much greater understanding of the issues that people affected by cancer might be going through.

“We now have an agreement in place where we are able to work in conjunction with the Macmillan Welfare Benefits Officer to support our tenants, both within the hospital environment and in the comfort of their own homes. This support and guidance takes into account the effects that their cancer experience might be having, not just on their tenancy but on their lives in general.”

Councillor Frances Renton, SBC’s executive member for social work and housing, said: “When someone is going through the life-changing experience of a cancer diagnosis with all the difficulties that this brings, the last thing they need is to have the added stress of financial worries. The support that this service provides is absolutely vital and it is deeply encouraging to hear just how many people have been helped over the past seven years.”

Nisreen Badiozzaman, Macmillan development manager for South and East Scotland, said: “The benefits system is extremely complex and often cancer patients don’t realise they are eligible for financial assistance. This service is making life more tolerable for cancer patients, their families and their carers by helping them claim the welfare benefits they are entitled to.

“It has made a huge impact to people’s lives across the Borders and its success has been possible due to the hard work and dedication of all of the partners involved.”

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 please contact the Welfare Benefits Service on 01896 661394 or at You can also visit the Borders Macmillan Centre at the Borders General Hospital.

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