There are many organisations and companies who can assist you if you have financial or practical issues. Below are some suggestions on possible issues you may face, and how you may be able to get some assistance.
If you expect to lose all or most of your income or your partner’s income, the first organisation to contact is Centrelink, a division of the Commonwealth Government Department of Human Services. Depending on your circumstances, you may not be eligible for benefits immediately but frequently benefits are back-dated to the date of application. So the earlier you make an application, the sooner you may receive some relief payments.
Centrelink benefits are too complex for us to explain here in detail and the conditions and payment amounts change regularly. However, remember that if you have employment to return to this will affect the basis of your benefit. Your partner may also be eligible for a Carer Payment or Carer Allowance, so be sure to enquire about this.
When completing Centrelink forms it is very important to be accurate and provide all the required details. Failure to supply all their requirements may result in lengthy delays in obtaining your benefits. The Leukaemia Foundation’s support staff will be happy to help you with this procedure but it is your responsibility to provide full and accurate information.
When you are unable to make your regular payments on your mortgage as a result of serious ill health, it is important that you let the relevant organisations know as soon as possible. Most banks and other financial organisations have special arrangements for customers in financial hardship as a result of ill health. It is preferable to write to the Head Office of the financial institution and explain your circumstances, giving details of your health problem and how the loss or reduction of income will prevent you from making your regular payments. You should ask for specific assistance such as suspension of your payments for six months. If you are not in a position to write then you may telephone them and ask for the “Financial Hardship” department.
If your mortgage is paid by regular debit to your bank account, you will need to make sure they do not continue to debit your account once you have advised them of your situation. Otherwise you may find that money in the account you are planning to use for food and other essentials is still taken for the mortgage. Similar procedures apply when you cannot make the minimum repayments on your credit cards or personal loans. It is always preferable to approach the lender before you become overdue. Most financial organisations are understanding when they are aware of your difficulty but once an overdue account is referred to a collection agency it can be harder to resolve.
More information on how to approach your bank is available at the Australian Bankers Association Inc.: www.bankers.asn.au.
Most local councils will be tolerant if you are having difficulty keeping up your property rates. Arrangements vary between local government bodies, but many have a Rate Arrears Tribunal to assist ratepayers who are in financial hardship. As with other organisations, you are likely to receive a more sympathetic hearing if you approach them before your account is overdue.
If you rent your home, don’t forget to speak with your landlord. Even though they may not be obligated to help you, you might be surprised at the consideration you receive when they know your situation. When your income is greatly reduced due to ill health, payment of your rent should be one of your highest priorities as private property owners are not obliged to be lenient regarding your payments.
Other sources of help
Do not hesitate to discuss your financial circumstances with your treatment centre or your private insurer. They may be able to assist with less costly options or advice on deferring payments. It may be possible to draw some money from your superannuation fund to help with emergency payments. Don’t forget to check if your superannuation has income replacement insurance as one of its features. If you are not sure give their helpline a call.