Financial assistance

More and more the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis is recognised as a concern for many people. Having to give up or change your working arrangements and having out of pocket costs for medications or equipment will impact the family budget. ​

The Pancare website provides direct information and links to finding financial support and assistance within Australia. ​They also have information specifically relevant to those experiencing personal financial hardship during COVID-19.

The Cancer Council in Australian states and territories offer a range of financial assistance programs that vary from state to state. You can call the Cancer Council on 13 11 20.​

The ACT and surrounds have access to support group Rise Above who offer financial assistance to patients in the area.

Financial assistance would’ve been really helpful. Mum had to take a fair bit of time off work to care for Dad, and during this time the bills piled up.

Andrew, carer of his father with pancreatic cancer

Payment if you cant work

If you usually work but cannot work because of your pancreatic cancer and its treatment it is possible to apply for a Disability Support Pension. A Disability Support Pension is a payment for people with a permanent physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that stops you working. It can be hard to meet the criteria for this payment and it may take some months for the process to be completed. A social worker can help you with applying for this type of financial support.


It may be possible to access superannuation funds before you retire or reach your benefit (preservation) age in the following circumstances:

  • on compassionate or financial hardship grounds
  • if you have a terminal illness and two doctors (one must be a specialist) have said that you have less than 2 years to live
  • you have a permanent work incapacity (often called permanent incapacity).

The requirements for each withdrawal are different and you will usually require medical or other evidence to support your claim. If you are accessing a benefit before preservation age, it is likely that tax will be payable so seek financial and taxation advice.

Importantly, most superannuation funds contain insurance policies which provide:

  • Total and Permanent Disability benefits (TPD) (usually a lump sum benefit payable if you cease work due to illness or injury and are unable to return Income Protection or
  • Salary Continuance benefits (which pays you monthly for the time that you are unable to work due to illness or injury) and
  • Terminal Illness and Death benefits (lump sum benefits payable if you are given less than 2 years to live).
running track

These insurance benefits can be much greater than your superannuation account balance and its worth checking your entitlements. Sometimes these insurance benefits can be claimed when you apply to access your own superannuation account balance. However, withdrawing your superannuation early can adversely affect your insurance entitlements. If you are planning on withdrawing your superannuation, you should first check if you have any insurance entitlements in the account and make sure that withdrawing the superannuation will not impact your entitlements. Legal advice is available. It is a good idea to seek assistance.

(Information provided by Tom Cobban, Superannuation & Insurance Lawyer)

You can find out more about early access to superannuation from the Australian Taxation office website.

Free legal advice for patients

Peter Mac collaborates with Inner Melbourne Community Legal (IMCL) to deliver a Health Justice Partnership. IMCL provides a free legal service to Peter Mac patients, bringing about better outcomes. You can learn more about this service at the Peter Mac website.

There’s funding out there but people don’t know how to obtain it and what they can do… for example with utilities. You can go straight to the utility companies and Centrelink and Superannuation. But people don’t know how to and what they can access.

Sonia, Pancare patient services coordinator