'˜Knights in shining armour' celebrated

The Macmillan Welfare Benefits Service was celebrated today at the second annual lunch for staff, volunteers, clients and link services.

MP Tim Loughton with Julie Martin and Paul Robinson, chairman of Citizens Advice Central and South Susses
MP Tim Loughton with Julie Martin and Paul Robinson, chairman of Citizens Advice Central and South Susses

Funded by Macmillan Cancert Support, the service is managed across West Sussex by Citizens Advice Central and South Sussex.

East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton was a special guest at the celebration lunch, held at Field Place in Goring.

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He applauded the work of the team but said more needed to be done centrally to simplify the benefits system for cancer patients.

Client Alison Elliott with her knight in shining armour Hilary Littlejohns

“People are not necessarily at their strongest when they are having to fill in these forms and we really need to make that process more user friendly and less complicated,” he said.

“That is something we have made some progress with but I think we need to go a lot further.”

The Macmillan Welfare Rights Team volunteers help people to understand the many complicated forms and sometimes difficult process to get help when they are at their lowest.

Client Alison Elliott, from Angmering, said Hilary Littlejohns, one of the team members how helped her, had been her ‘knight in shining armour’.

Alison was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 at the age of 44. After radiotherapy, chemotherapy and other treatment, she was all clear for five years but was recently diagnosed with bone cancer.

“They can’t cure it but they can manage it,” she said.

“Without Hilary and the other ladies who helped me, I would have given up. I could not have done it without them, I would have thrown in the towel.

“The whole benefit system is difficult to understand. I have given in with the forms a few times but these ladies make you feel like you have got someone there who knows the system.”

The service, which is based at Worthing Town Hall, has helped 1,051 clients, their families and carers in the last financial year. Of more than 1,000 problems across all the subject areas, 961, which was 91 per cent of all enquiries, related to welfare benefits.

Julie Martin, chief executive of Citizens Advice Central and South Sussex, said: “This was the second informal event of this kind and the purpose is to recognise the work that goes on and the impact of the services, and to show how we work in collaboration in the community.

“The funding gets squeezed every year but and the demands get greater.

“The funding to continue this service has been extended until September 2017.

“We also await the national strategy guidance from Macmillan in order to prepare a bid to tender for future services.”

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