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The cancer penalty: Costs for young sufferers can add £700 per month to family bills

Nick Cheek
Written By:
Nick Cheek

The emotional cost is devastating but research reveals that the financial cost of having a child with cancer means families can be hit with an additional £700 per month.

New analysis that was sponsored by Guardian Financial Services and conducted by cancer charity Young Lives vs Cancer, showed just how financially difficult it is to cope with a child who has cancer.

The hefty additional costs, labelled “the cancer premium”, stem from the travelling that needs to be undertaken, with the extra costs reaching £250; food, which adds an additional monthly expense of £144; increased energy bills at £68; clothing at £56; toys and treats at £48; childcare for other siblings at £30; parking was found to add a monthly £24; additional telephone bills £15; and accommodation £14 a month.

All of the increased costs were incurred as a direct result of attending or recovering from cancer treatment.

Research found that costs have also increased in recent years. In 2023, monthly costs for dealing with young cancer patients rose by 15%, in comparison to similar research that was conducted by the charity in 2017.

One parent who took part in the research said: “It’s a huge strain mentally and physically. Having a child be diagnosed and go through treatment and hospital stays and horrific side-effects is literally the worst thing any parent can face.

“Having to do this whilst holding down jobs, normality for our other child and trying to hold everything together to pay a rising mortgage, bills in a cost-of-living crisis and the added costs of travel, parking and food for treatment, has put a huge strain on us financially and as a family.”

The cancer “penalty”

Another part of the research focused on the financial strain caused by loss of income as work schedules had to be changed, which the report stated was the “cancer penalty”. Over two thirds of families in the survey said that they had experienced a fall in income. The averages loss in income reached more than £6,000 per year.

For nearly a third of those asked, the situation was even worse, as the drop in income climbed to over £10,000 per year, seriously affecting families’ financial stability when facing already devastating circumstances. In addition, nearly a third of people said that their income fell as one adult had to stop working altogether due to a cancer diagnosis.

Financial impact is “devastating”

Rachel Kirby-Rider, chief executive at Young Lives vs Cancer, said: “The impact of a young person having cancer is devastating on so many levels, and this research shows just how difficult it can be for families financially. The financial support that young people and their families are entitled to rarely covers the additional financial burden, and that’s before you consider any lost income as a result of young people and parents needing to reduce hours or take time off.

“This is why Young Lives vs Cancer exists: to raise awareness of the issues faced by young cancer patients and their families, and to support them to face everything that cancer throws at them.”

While Rachael Welsh, Guardian’s head of marketing, has been working with the charity to commission the research. She said: “It’s sad and shocking to think that, on top of the emotional turmoil of having a child with cancer. No family should have to go through financial hardship at the very time they’re dealing with their child’s cancer. At Guardian, we believe every family should be able to put in place something to protect against the negative financial impact of their child being seriously ill, and that’s why we offer optional children’s critical illness protection.

“This cover can be added to any of our adult covers – including Life Protection and Income Protection, to give families the peace of mind that should their child become seriously ill, money won’t be something that adds to their worries.”