Last week, benefits advisers Sarah and Heidi from the Macmillan Support Line joined us live in the chatroom to answer your questions.

Sarah Presto and Heidi Leach, Macmillan benefits advisers

Subjects covered included help with travel costs, the bedroom tax and the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

All the questions and answers from the chat are below.

If you’ve got a question, you can speak to an adviser like Sarah or Heidi by calling free 0808 808 0000 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm).

I am at present a carer for my partner - she had a stroke last year, so I gave up work to look after her. We get Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), housing benefit and we have a mobility car. I also get paid to look after her via social services. She has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer - we don't know how long it will be. So I am worried I will lose all "our" benefits and our rented home because it is two bedroom and I won't be able to afford to stay here, plus I will have no vehicle. Is there anything I can do?

Sarah: Thank you for your question and I’m so sorry to hear about your partner. Admittedly, this change in circumstances will change your entitlement to benefits and it’s possible that you will be affected by the bedroom tax rules. If you rent through a local authority or a housing association then they may not apply the bedroom tax until a year after the date of a death. However, if you rent privately then you are likely to be affected. 

Depending on various factors including your age, there may be other benefits and help available. I would encourage you to contact the helpline on 0808 8080000 so that we can discuss this further with you and so that we can gather more information. 

My friend has cancer. He lives in Birmingham. He’s on benefits, but they keep sending him looking for work, which he cannot do. Can you help him, please?             

Sarah: It might be helpful for your friend to give our benefits advisers a call directly - then they can take a few more details about his situation and see what they can suggest. The number is 0808 808 0000 (Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm) and it's free to call. 

I’ve been receiving ESA and – as I was placed in the Support Group - did not have to have any assessment interviews to continue to receive ESA benefit. However, I have recently received a 20-page questionnaire from ATOS Healthcare: "Limited capability for work".  

I finished chemotherapy treatment before Christmas 2012 and had my ileostomy reversal just before Easter this year. I still suffer from nerve damage from the chemo and bowel control issues. Would my GP be willing to sign the last page of the questionnaire so I won't need to complete the pages of self-assessment? 

Sarah: I would encourage you to contact us on the helpline on 0808 808 0000 for help with completing the form, to ensure that all the information is captured. A person only automatically qualifies for the support group if they are having, are due to have or are in recovery from chemotherapy or radiotherapy (usually within the last 6 months). 

There is some information on Employment and Support Allowance, including assessment, time limits and phases on our website.

We have some information on our website about chemotherapy-induced nerve damage and how to manage it, which might be helpful. We also have some information about bowel changes after treatment and coping with bowel changes

My wife receives DLA. Is she allowed free prescriptions from her doctors? She is a housewife, but does receive on-going medicines from the Christie hospital. 

Heidi: Yes, your wife should be entitled to free prescriptions as a cancer patient. She needs to get a form called an FP92A from her GP or, if she rings the Support Line (0808 808 0000), we can send one in the post. 

There is more information on our website about getting free prescriptions

Do cancer patients who only get pension have to pay full rent? It’s for my dad. 

Heidi: It would depend a bit on your dad’s circumstances – we’d need to know his weekly income and level of savings (if any) we would also need to know his weekly rent. If you can get him to give us a call with this information on 0808 808 0000, we can help him to work this out. 

You might also find it helpful to read our information about help for people of pension age. 

I’m 39 and from Bristol. In May 2012 I was diagnosed by granulosa cell cancer of the ovaries. I've had a hysterectomy and BEP chemotherapy from July-September 2012. in October they said I'm clear, but I still feel back pain and numbness. I’m already back to work as a catering assistant - it's really hard but I need money, as I have two young children. How can I get benefits and what are the qualifications? 

Sarah: Sorry to hear that you are still having problems. There is a benefit called Personal Independence Payment which people can claim whilst being in work. There are certain criteria which you must meet to qualify. Here is a link for some more information https://www.gov.uk/pip/overview or alternatively you can contact us on the helpline to discuss whether you may qualify - 0808 808 0000. 

You might find this page about help for people of working age helpful. Also, we have a section about work and cancer that has advice on dealing with returning to work and talking to your employer. 

My mum was diagnosed with AML on 12 July. She worked as a carer in people's homes right up to 11 July, and is still actually employed by the company, despite being in hospital receiving chemotherapy. What is she entitled to? She is 51 years old and her employment is full-time. 

Heidi: Your mum should be able to get Statutory Sick Pay from her employer but there may also be other things she can claim. It depends on how much money he has coming in. You can ring us on the support line with more details and we can complete a full benefits assessment if you like? 

I have had chemo and radio, but I was taken off the middle rate care and lower rate mobility benefits. I still suffer from bad pain and I’m on antidepressants, I don't sleep too well, I can’t go out on my own, I’m attending a number of health care workers. I would just like to know if I am entitled to any other benefits? These are only a few of the problems I suffer from. 

Heidi: If your DLA decision was made less than one calendar month ago, you are in time to ask for the decision to be looked at again. If not, then we could help you look at the criteria for a new benefit called the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Either way I think it would be a good idea to give us a call on 0808 808 000 to talk through your options. Hope this helps 

I am receiving palliative treatment for recurrent cervical cancer. I have just finished chemotherapy, and I struggle a lot. I am getting half pay from work for the next three months, but I can't see me being able to return after that. I struggle with walking and many other things. Will I be able to claim DLA or any other benefits and who should I contact?  

Sarah: I would definitely encourage you to phone us so that we can do a full benefit check, as I think that you should be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance. Even if you are still getting half pay from your employer, you should be able to claim contributory based ESA, which is for people with a limited capability for work. Our number is 080 808 0000 and we are open from 9am - 6pm on week days. There may be other things we can assess you for, too.

My wife is currently waiting for rest of her lung to be removed due to her cancer returning. She is now getting sick pay from her work. At the moment, this does not cover the rent or food. I’m also a recovering cancer patient with no income. Are we entitled to help? 

Heidi: Thanks for your question, its hard to know without more information what help you may be able to get. Do you have any more money coming in or is it just your wife’s sick pay? 

I have just had my first chemo session for breast cancer. I`ve worked all my life, until I had my girls. I haven’t paid stamp for five years(as I was not working or claiming). I wanted to get a full time job in September, when my youngest started school, but cancer’s mucked that up a bit. My partner works full time, but is on minimum wage, and things are getting tighter and tighter. We`ve used our few savings on travel, unpaid days off etc. I have applied for a grant from Macmillan (which I shouldn’t have to, as you are are a charity, and there’s many worse off than me), but is there anything I can claim from the government? I`ve paid plenty in over the years. 

Heidi: Contribution-based benefits such as contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance are based on contributions made in the last 2-3 tax years. 

There may be some help available with things like Council Tax or rent (if you rent). This would depend on how much your partner earns. Do you get any Tax Credits at all? 

Here’s our page on PIP, and some information about getting financial help with various other things.

I have peritoneal cancer and I’m having chemotherapy. I get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) at present, but I’m struggling and I can no longer walk. I applied for DLA but I was refused. Where do I go from here? I feel desperate. 

Sarah: I’m really sorry to hear that you’re struggling. DLA has now been replaced with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment. The benefit focuses on two components: mobility and daily living needs. 

I had breast cancer a few years back. I now claim pension credit. I never had a breast removed, just a lump. I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which has left me badly burned and in pain each day. My problem is that, after radio, my breast shrunk by a good 3/4" smaller then my good one, so I have problems getting underwear. Is there any help I can get to buy underwear made to fit me, as shop bought is no good? 

Sarah: I would encourage you to contact the helpline, firstly so that we can take some details to check that you income is full maximised and that you're not missing out on any benefits. Our number is 0808 808 0000. 

We can then explore as to whether there would be any assistance with the cost of the underwear, such as a Macmillan Grant

Breast Cancer Care also has some information on bras, which might be useful. 

As a carer for my dad who has myeloma, is there any assistance I can get, as I don't work and my parents are both pensioners? 

Heidi: You may be able to claim Carers’ Allowance if your dad gets Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance - does he get one of these? 

We have some information on out website about what help you can get as a carer. 

My husband is claiming ESA on behalf of us both. Would it be financially better for me to claim in my own right? Would I then get the extra money from the support group and the severely disabled component, and disability income guarantee? I get DLA High Mobility and Middle care components. 

Heidi: This is quite complicated and it’s difficult to give the right advice without a bit more information. Your husband has the option of claiming Income Support and Carers’ Allowance instead of ESA, and this may be the better off option, but to be 100% sure It would be great if you could call us to double check this, as it depends on what other money you have coming in. 

I am just about to receive my fourth chemotherapy - I will be having six, then radiotherapy, so my treatment is ongoing. I received three weeks pay at 75% when first diagnosed back in April. As I only worked 14 hours a week, I am not entitled to SSP. My husband works, but the expense of travelling to treatment, etc, with no income for me for several months means money is getting a bit tight. My son is off to university, which we are funding, in a couple of weeks. I wondered if any help is available. 

Heidi: Ok, so no SSP is available then. But there may be means-tested benefits available, or you may be eligible for a grant from Macmillan. You could call us on 0808 808 0000 for a full benefit assessment. 

We also have some information about help with travel and parking costs.

I thought I'd see if my mum can get any help - she's a cancer care co-ordinater and was signed off on 16 July, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer herself. It then spread, so she's had two operations and is now waiting for chemotherapy, which should start in mid-October, and they won't let her work while she's dealing with this. She has chemo for 18 weeks in total, her sick pay will have dropped by then to the statuary one, which is rubbish. As she's married and her husband works, will she get any help at all or will they have to make do with her lower income? 

Sarah: Both of your parents' income would be counted. Most benefits are means-tested, unfortunately, and the levels of benefits are very low, so entitlement would depend on how much your dad's earnings are. We also need other information such as if they pay rent and how much, council tax, whether they have savings etc. 

It would still be worth your mum (or yourself) to contact us on the helpline so that we can do a full assessment with the full details. There is a benefit which your mum can apply for once her SSP finishes if she is still unable to return to work, plus there is another non-means tested benefit (not effected by income/savings) to consider too. 

I was diagnosed with womb cancer three months ago. I had total hysterectomy two weeks ago and I’m waiting for results to see if need further treatment. I'm struggling with money and I’m not sure if I’m entitled to any benefits, as my employer is paying basic pay, which is more than SSP. I'm only 30, and this has had a big effect on my life, as I have no children and was denied fertility treatment. 

Heidi: Sorry to hear things are so difficult. There may be some means-tested benefits you can get  - it depends on how much your pay is from work. You may also be able to get a small grant from Macmillan but these are means tested - would you like to ring us on 0808 808 0000 and we can look into it for you?

I currently get the highest rate DLA. I also get SSP (until 1 October). My partner gets ESA and low rate DLA. I once received a grant for £300 from Macmillan when I was first diagnosed. I am really struggling to pay bills and past debts, is there anything else I am eligible for or any other grants or funds available to help me out through this difficult time? Also is there anything I can do to get debtors off my back until I am sorted? 

Sarah: You should certainly be able to claim ESA when your SSP ends in October, so I would encourage you to call us in respect of that. The Macmillan grant is usually just a one-off payment. Sometimes we can help with a further grant if somebody's circumstances change, however it has to be for extra costs incurred as a result of cancer or of treatment. There may also be other grants available to help with bills and debts, have a look at this list of grants

It might also help you to call our financial guidance team on 0808 808 0000 – they can offer information on managing debts. 

We have some information on our website about debt, planning your finances and budgeting

How do you get a grant from you? We've not been offered anything in 13 years. 

Heidi: In order to look eligibility for the grant you can call us on 0808 808 0000. The grant is means-tested and it is intended to help with extra costs due to cancer and side effects of treatment. I hope this helps. 

I had my PIP medical assessment yesterday. Do you know when I can expect to hear the outcome? 

Heidi: PIP is quite a new benefit and, so far, we don’t have much information about how long it is taking for the decisions to be made. I would suggest if you have not heard anything in about four weeks give them a call. 

My dad has just been diagnosed with rectal cancer and he is only getting 70% of his wages. Can we get any help with anything ? I am 32 and I live with my dad, and so does my little girl, who is 5. My mum does not work. The hospital has said that we would be entitled to some help with parking charges and car tax I think. 

Sarah: There may possibly other help that your dad can get, but this depends on his other circumstances. For example, how much 70% of his wage comes to, and how long he has been sick for. I would encourage you to call us (or your dad may like to call us directly) on 0808 8080000 so that we can gather more information and do a full check. 

We can discuss whether your dad may be able to get some help through a Macmillan Grant, a one-off payment to help with extra costs such as parking etc. Entitlement to this will just depend on income levels. The savings limit for a couple in respect of applying for the grant is £8000.

We have some more information on help with travel costs and on road tax exemption. 

My sister-in-law has just had an operation yesterday for breast cancer. Would she be entitled to any benefits? 

Heidi: sorry to hear about your sister-in-law. Most benefits are means-tested so it would depend on the level of her income. Do you know much about her financial circumstances? 

She can give us a call on 0808 808 0000 to find out more.