Funding cut would be a great tragedy

THE proposed withdrawal, due to a lack of continuation funding, of the Macmillan Cancer Support/Citizens Advice Bureau Welfare Benefits Advice Service for those people affected by cancer within Northumberland is a great tragedy (News Post Leader, January 5).

The spokesperson from the NHS North of Tyne states that “...in this case, we believe that benefits advice can be provided through the usual Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) service...”

It would be prudent to point out that, nationwide, many CABs are currently having their funding, in some cases, completely withdrawn or reduced as local government funding together with other possible funding streams are slashed.

This statement also fails to address the fact that many of those accessing the service are either very unwell [at the point of referral] due to the effects of their treatment or, in some cases, terminally ill.

As such many individuals require a home visit as they are too unwell to come and sit in order to attend an appointment (they frequently have compromised immune systems as a consequence of their illness/treatment).

Home visits are not a luxury, often they are a necessity.

Macmillan/CAB benefit advisers are regularly able to identify matters beyond their responsibility that they are able to refer on to other appropriate agencies.

The original remit of the service was focused around the provision of pro-active and sensitive services to assist with benefits claims for those affected by cancer.

Having a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness is bad enough; being denied ready access to a service that can be of assistance at a time of great need is incomprehensible.

I sympathise fully with the difficulties faced by potential funders in today’s economic climate, in this case NHS North of Tyne.

Finite financial resources have to be allocated wisely for the good of all.

However, health surely needs to be considered in the most holistic sense of the word, is access to welfare benefits advice really a non-health need?

It would appear that there is no easy solution to this predicament.

A useful starting point might be to ask the people within Northumberland as to whether they wish to have this type of specialist support service retained or whether, as suggested, such a resource can be meaningfully provided through the more usual methods.

GWEN MARPLES

Bedlington