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How to deal with debt with a long-term illness

Jasmine Birtles 27th Nov 2017 One Comment

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Are you facing debt with a long-term illness and wondering how you’ll manage your money? Ongoing health issues often mean you end up dealing with unpredictable expenses like travelling to appointments, hospital parking, and prescription charges.

It can be challenging both mentally and physically, and can lead to more stress when you’re already feeling the pressure. These financial extras, as well as time off work and a reduced income, can make falling into debt more likely.

If you’re dealing with a long-term illness and are worried about debt, read our advice on what you can do to deal with your financial situation.


Look at how you can manage your finances

Worried couple working out finances

Create a simple budget to make sure your essential living expenses and care costs are taken into account. You can use our free budget template to get started.

Your budget will help you manage your incomings against your outgoings, so you can concentrate on your health instead of worrying about money. It’s also a good way to discover where you could benefit from saving cash.


Check your Statutory Sick Pay entitlement

Woman receiving a bad diagnosis from the doctor

Some people don’t know that you can get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks if:

  • You’re in work, but can’t attend because you’re ill
  • You were earning £112 per week or more in the two months before you couldn’t work

That means you’ll still get paid a specified amount while you’re off work, paid into your bank account the same way you would usually get your wages.

The current entitlement is £89.35 per week for up to 28 weeks. If you’re struggling to keep up with bills or repayments while off work, this kind of entitlement could ease some of the pressure.

Some employers have their own sick pay schemes, so double check with your HR department what you’re entitled to. If you don’t have an HR department, ask your manager, or check your contract.


Use smart ways to reduce your spending

Unhappy disabled woman

Even if you’re already on a tight budget, there are loads of ways you can cut back and save smartly. Use an Ofgem approved switching service to find better deals on your utility bills, look out for free evening and weekend call offers from your phone provider, and find out how to save money on your TV packages.

When it comes to your food shop, you could switch to own brand products or start shopping at a better value supermarket. Cheaper food doesn’t mean losing out on taste!


Claim an income tax refund

Patient in hospital bed

If you’ve had to stop working due to long-term illness, or have reduced hours because of it, you might be able to get a refund of some of the income tax you’ve paid.

It’s worth contacting HMRC to check if you’re entitled to some money back.


Consider ways to increase your income


We’re not talking about getting another job or going back to work when you’re not ready, because your health must come first. If you’re off work long-term because of your illness, or have a low income as a result, there may be some benefits you’re entitled to.

Use the StepChange benefits calculator to check what you could be missing, and look into any pensions, savings or investments you might have. This’ll help to make sure you’ve got as much money coming in as possible.


Try reducing your rent or mortgage payments

Unhappy man such in hospital

If you’re on a low income and renting, you can apply for a council tax discount. If you’ve got a mortgage, contact your lender or insurance provider to see if you have insurance in place that covers your payments while you’re ill.

You might have mortgage payment protection, critical illness cover, or income protection insurance to help you cover payments. However, bear in mind that any insurance pay-out could affect state benefit claims you make.


Get free advice to deal with debt

If you’re struggling to pay your bills, use the Stepchange online Debt Remedy tool here for advice and practical solutions to deal with your debt, or give their advisors a call.

They will talk through your finances and give you free and impartial debt advice, as well as recommend a debt solution tailored to your situation.

Also, sign up to our free debt help emails here. They will support you as you work to pay off your debts and get better.


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5 years ago

Some very sound advice for this tricky situation.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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