I get asked sometimes why I volunteer for Macmillan. Everyone has their own reason for being a volunteer - I volunteer because I like being part of a group of people working together to make things happen.

And Macmillan has really been making things happen recently. So this blog is about the successes we’ve had and to thank everyone who’s been involved  -  we made this happen!

Better support for carers

Many of us affected by cancer need support from the people around us but these people don’t often get the help they need and deserve. Macmillan’s Do You Care campaign highlighted this lack of support for carers and spelled out the changes needed in the Government’s Care Bill to address this.

The campaign targeted MPs at Westminster and in their constituencies and got widespread support across all parties. I emailed my local MP about the campaign and got a lovely response from her – with a personal message. And some of my family and my friends joined in and emailed their MPs too.

Macmillan invited me to attend a meeting at Westminster to meet MPs. There were about 25 of us – carers and patients – and it was our chance to talk directly to MPs about our own experiences, the kind of support we needed and how the Care Bill needed to change to give us that support.

We met about 35 MPs. Every one of them took note of what we said and almost all of them said they would press for change. Macmillan continued working with MPs to keep up the pressure and I’m pleased to say we’ve got a result!

Finally, the Government announced the Care Bill would include guidance on identifying carers and making sure they get signposted to the information and support they need. This will make a huge difference to the lives of thousands of cancer carers because, without this change, nearly half of cancer carers in England would continue to miss out on vital support.

The Government will develop this guidance over the next few months and Macmillan will continue to campaign to make sure the guidance is robust so no one has to look after someone with cancer alone.

About 27,000 of us supported this campaign. It couldn’t have happened without us.

Benefits for terminally ill people

Getting a cancer diagnosis is a blow. Going through treatment is tough – physically and emotionally. And then there’s money worries.

Macmillan research shows that four in five cancer patients are hit with an average cost of £570 a month because of their illness. So I know I’m not the only one who worries about paying bills or who’s started shopping differently to save money.

This is particularly difficult for terminally ill people and the people around them. Terminally ill people need the right financial support and for many of us this means being able to access benefits to support us in the last few months of our lives.

Last year the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) replaced the Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Under DLA people who were terminally ill and reasonably expected to die within six months could have their claim ‘fast tracked’ and processed within 8-10 days. Since PIP was introduced, Macmillan has heard that some people have been waiting up to two months for their benefits. This is worrying and means that some of us are going without the financial support we need at a time when we are most vulnerable.

About 3,000 of us took part in the campaign and signed the Macmillan petition calling on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to make sure the process took days, not months.

We got a result!

The disabilities minister, Mike Penning, recently announced in an interview on BBC’s Radio 4 the waiting time has been reduced to around 10 days and the DWP is working to get the times lower. But that’s not the end of the story – Macmillan will continue to work with the Government to make sure the benefits system works for people with cancer.

These campaign successes show what we can do when we work together and speak out for better support and services – for ourselves and for the people around us.

If, like me, you want to help Macmillan demand better for people affected by cancer, you can sign up to be an e-campaigner and keep up-to-date with Macmillan’s campaigns on the campaigns blog.