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Cancer patients to benefit from free financial planning services

Wednesday 22 August, 2012

AMP and Cancer Council will today launch a new program to provide free financial planning services to cancer patients in need across Victoria.

According to Cancer Council research, families can expect to lose more than $47,200 when a family member is diagnosed with cancer. Loss of wages and other mounting costs such as treatment, childcare and accommodation leave many patients in desperate need of immediate funds.

The research also revealed significant gaps in access to financial planning services due to cost, stress and sickness. This has placed many patients at risk of losing homes, accumulating significant debt and falling behind on expenses.

In response, around 80 AMP financial planners around Victoria have joined forces to help patients with cancer-related financial issues such as early access to superannuation or insurance benefits, dealing with mortgage hardship and advising on Centrelink, debt management and budgeting.

"A diagnosis of cancer can be extremely traumatic and most patients are primarily concerned with getting through treatment," Karen Conte, Programs Director of the Cancer Council Victoria's Support Service said.

"But bills do add up and quite often patients have to work through some really important financial issues to make sure they and their family are properly protected during these difficult times.

"We are now working with AMP financial planners who are offering their services for free to reduce the stress and financial difficulties which can mount for many patients, especially when they lose pay from lost work during treatment," Ms Conte said.

Louisa Fitz-Gerald, National Bro Bono Manager at Cancer Council NSW, said the professionals involved with the service see the program as a valuable opportunity to strengthen their relationship with their local community. Cancer patient, Howie McQuarie, whose wife is currently receiving cancer treatment, said his family's dreams were kept alive by the support and advice from AMP financial planner Mark O'Leary.

"Without our financial planner's care and advice, some of our biggest goals for our children would have been lost," Howie said.

"We can't express our gratitude enough to those who so generously supported us through this incredibly difficult time."

Melbourne-based AMP financial planner Mark O'Leary said the program enables him to provide support to cancer patients and their families when they need it most.

"Taking part in the Cancer Council pro bono program is a really rewarding experience. It allows me to use my expertise to help families through a time that puts great strain on them physically, emotionally and financially. If I can relieve some of this stress by helping to organise the family finances, I feel like I've made a positive and practical contribution to an otherwise difficult period," Mr O'Leary said.

For more information about the Cancer Council Financial Planning Referral Service, call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.