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Managing Money and Financial Support for Cancer Patients – in Australia


From costs incurred by treatment, wage loss from illness or medication side effects, to simply having to buy more fuel or pay a taxi so that you can get to and from treatment, a cancer diagnosis can bring a have a big impact on finances.  

So, let’s talk about financial support for cancer patients. Financial support can take many forms, it could be access to food hampers or vouchers for groceries; it could be specific government grants for cancer patients that reduce the financial cost of treatment; it can take the form of financial counselling or no-interest-loans that help reduce ongoing costs of living (such as mortgages, rent, and utilities). What one person is eligible for, or needs, can be very different to another. The main factors impacting eligibility in financial support are how much you earn, where you live, whether you have dependents, your residency status (if you’re a citizen, or on a visa), and any health conditions (such as a disability or a cancer diagnosis).  

 In Australia, the two main financial support programs provided by the government to cancer patients are Medicare and Centrelink. Medicare (1) is available to Australian citizens, permanent residents, temporary residents covered by a Ministerial Order, and citizens of New Zealand/Aotearoa. To access Medicare, you need to be enrolled. Medicare provides free or subsidised healthcare and will cover the bulk of medical related costs for most people diagnosed with cancer. Alternatively, private health insurance can also aid in covering the costs of treatment if that is available to you. 

 Centrelink provides social security payments to people in Australia. For example, Centrelink provides payments to people too sick to work via the JobSeeker Payment. Centrelink has many different payment programs each with different eligibility criteria, a good place to start when looking for what you might be eligible for is their website(2).  

In addition to these programs, some community organisations also provide financial support to people with a cancer diagnosis. One useful place to start when looking for support through community organisations is a website called AskIzzy(3). AskIzzy is a really useful directory for support services in Australia. To use it, you enter your postcode and what you’re seeking help with, and AskIzzy will show you what organisations are available nearby and how to contact them. On AskIzzy, you can search for help with food, housing, money, mental health, domestic and family violence, everyday needs (clothes, showers etc.), health, legal advocacy, and employment. A similar place to look is called Money Smart(4). Money Smart is a government website that has many different resources that help you manage your money (like a budgeting tool here), and also how to access financial counselling.

Financial counselling is a service where a qualified professional provides information, advice, and advocacy for people experiencing financial difficulty about their financial situation. A financial counsellor may be able to help when you’re not sure who to speak to for financial assistance. They can help you budget, access things like utility relief and no interest loans, and speak to financial institutions, like banks, on your behalf. Financial counselling is offered free by some organisation, and can sometimes even be done over the phone. To find a financial counsellor, you can simply google “financial counselling near me”, have a look on AskIzzy, or on Money Smart via the directory here.

By Jack, Cancer Navigator, Canteen Australia

Key Links:

1: Service Australia

2: Centrelink

3: Ask Izzy

4: Money Smart