Written by Jonathan Pearce, Family Support Team, Hospice of the Valleys – November 2019
Having to hear bad news about your own or a loved one’s health can be difficult, and that news has a range of significant consequences that can have an enormous impact. Support with the financial consequences of living with, and dying from, a life limiting illness, has always been an integral part of the holistic approach that the Family Support Team at our hospice provides. This support also extends to the bereaved relatives that we support.
Within Blaenau Gwent, a snapshot of the picture of health compares less favourably to most parts of the rest of Wales, and the U.K.This means that our Family Support Team are keen to inform, enable and empower the people that receive our service to identify what matters most to them, and provide a level and type of support that suits their circumstances.
During the year April 2018 – 19, we supported people referred to our service, including bereaved relatives, to generate an annual income of £650,000. The rapport, trust and confidence in our service is something we work hard at. We want to remain recognised as a professional, conscientious and enabling service when supporting people to navigate the benefits system, and sourcing further support that have financial implications. This may involve liaising with other services, such as the Local Authority.
Michelle Llewellyn, one of our 2 Welfare Rights Advisors and I have recently returned from the All Wales Palliative Care conference. The presentation was entitled ‘I cannot afford to be Ill! The impact of financial support in palliative & bereavement care.’ The presentation demonstrated the work of our Family Support Team (all 5 of us!) in achieving an income totalling £1 Million for the period April – September 2019, and was a great opportunity to inform other palliative care professionals of the difference that they can make. It also demonstrated the power of telling stories.
We support people with all kinds of benefits, and to date (September 2019) we have supported people with the following;
• Personal Independence Payments totalling £177,166.16
• Universal Credit claims of £170,718.42
• Attendance Allowance of £228,943
• Claims for bereaved relatives totalling £175,851.26
• State Pension claims of £69,635.53
• Pension Credit claims of £11,239.28
We also assist people to save money by ensuring that they are on the correct utility tariffs. We have supported over 100 Lasting Power of Attorney applications, saving people at least £36,764 (based on solicitors fees locally), and council tax reductions totalling £45,245.84, of which £14,877.75 due to the Severe Mental Impairment exemption.
We have been told that the impact of providing support with financial concerns has been invaluable, and we are keen to continue and develop our service, to meet the needs of people who need it most. This occurs in an area with a history of inequality and a gap that continues to increase.