Having cancer can mean massive changes in your financial situation, and all the stress that comes with it. Maggie's Benefits Advisor Shalima Khan explains how we can help.
What does your job involve?
Day to day I help centre visitors find their way through the benefits system, which can be tricky at the best of times. It involves completing a benefits check and looking at ways of maximising household income.
Once the check has been done, I help to complete any claims and forms needed and make sure the person gets anything they’re entitled to.
I also help people to save money on their household bills. I look for cheaper card rates, balance transfers, debt management – anything that will help increase income by looking at their individual situation as a whole.
How do you help people with cancer?
I try to help manage any financial stress that a cancer diagnosis can bring.
First, I listen to what the centre visitor is concerned about, and then offer options and give straightforward advice, free of any of the usual jargon.
Here at Maggie’s, I’m lucky that I’m able to give people the time they need, so they don’t feel rushed.
Why do people with cancer need benefits advice?
When someone’s diagnosed with cancer, their main priority should be themselves – their treatment and appointments – and those they love. But cancer can bring an increase in costs when you consider loss of income, hospital travel and parking, which can have a big impact on someone’s situation.
Having the right advice at the right time can help with some of the expenses. There’s a common misconception that all benefits are means tested, which isn’t the case!
Tell us about someone you’ve supported who really stood out to you?
There was a young mother who came in for benefits advice. Her household income had dropped, which made things very tight at home.
I had concerns that this lady was a victim of domestic abuse (mentally and financially) but wasn’t ready to confide in anyone. I encouraged her to come in whenever she was in the area, and after a few visits to Maggie’s she felt able to disclose her situation to me.
This is testament to the whole of the Maggie’s team, who made her feel safe. Her life and her child’s life are very different now because we were there when they needed us.
What have you learned since coming to work at Maggie’s?
That people deal with cancer in their own way. If you need a shoulder, if you need to laugh or if you just want somewhere quiet to get away from it all, Maggie’s is here for you. I feel privileged to be a part of this environment.
What do you like about Maggie's?
You feel immediately at ease when you come in and are greeted by our wonderful volunteers in this beautiful, tranquil building.
How to get support with money worries at Maggie's
Article first published in Making Maggie's magazine, Issue 5 October 2019