Royal London latest research has found that on top of coping with a critical illness such as, cancer, heart attack or stroke, people have to deal with financial pressure from unexpected bills and having to take time off work.
51% of those who have been diagnosed with a critical illness said they faced a shortfall in their income. Those who faced a financial burden, due to either their own, or a loved one’s critical illness, covered their outgoings using their existing day-to-day personal finances (65%) and 31% dipped into their savings.
Employees who are too ill to work, are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from their employer which is £89.35 per week for up to 28 weeks but this would not be enough to cover the extra expenses people face when ill or caring for someone who is.
The study also revealed that 20% had no savings at all to fall back on if they were diagnosed with a critical illness.
In addition to day-to-day living costs that need to be covered if someone is unable to work, the average additional cost of being ill or caring for someone who is ill can equate to £1,623. Those with a critical illness attended five hospital appointments a month on average, with transport to the hospital, doctor or chemist (67%) being the most common extra expense, costing £391 on average. 33% who faced a burden on their finances cited higher utility expenses, averaging at £675. The most costly extra expense was having alterations to the home, which cost £1,764 on average, though this was a less common expense, with only one in six needing to make alterations.
Royal London’s research shows critical illness can impact people’s support network too. Most people expected family and friends to care for them if they were unable to carry out day-to-day tasks while ill. With one in 10 people in the UK listed as carers, the research shows 68% of people were working when they were caring for someone who had been diagnosed with a critical illness.
54% had to take some time off or reduce their working hours as a result caring for someone with an illness. 35% of people who had to take time off or reduce their hours estimated that they took up to a month off work.
Debbie Kennedy, group head of protection strategy at Royal London, said: “Coping with a critical illness is a worrying time. Our research shows that although people expect the illness to have a financial impact they aren’t prepared, with a fifth not having any savings to fall back on.
“As increasing numbers are being diagnosed with a critical illness, we would urge people to try to get into the savings habit and consider speaking to a financial adviser about their options.”