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What if I get sick and cannot work?

Living with poor health for a long time is hard. And it can lead to money problems.

You may need to spend more on things like:

  • Getting to the hospital or doctor
  • Hospital parking
  • Prescription charges

You may also be earning less if you cannot work.

All of this makes it easier to fall into debt and harder to pay it back.

What can you do?

Look at your finances

There are some steps you can take to help focus on your health instead of worrying about money.

First, make a budget.

This helps you understand:

  • What you need to live as comfortably as you can
  • What you need to get the right care
  • How much you can afford to pay towards debt
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Increase your income

You might be able to get some more benefits.

Use our free benefits calculator to find out.

You should also check if you have any:

  • Pensions
  • Savings
  • Investments

Get support from your employer during long-term sick leave

If you are ill you may need to take time off for:

  • Appointments
  • Recovery
  • Treatment
  • Stress

Your employer should take steps to support you during this time.

  • They need to make sure you are treated fairly during and after your illness
  • Ask them about making 'reasonable adjustments'

Statutory Sick Pay: what is it?

You can get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from your employer for up to 28 weeks.

You need to be:

  • In work, but unable to attend due to illness
  • Earning £112 per week or more in the two months before you stopped working

Some employers operate their own sick pay schemes. To find out how it works for you:

  • Contact your HR department
  • Ask a manager
  • Check your contract or employee handbook

SSP payments are paid the same way as wages.

  • They go into the same bank account as your wages
  • They are paid at the same time that your wages normally are

Are you a carer?


You also have rights if you are caring for someone with long-term illness.


  • You can take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work
  • This could be to provide support in an emergency
  • Or, you can ask to work flexible hours

Speak to your trade union representative if you need someone to help you with your rights.

Contact the Acas helpline if you do not have one.

Claim an income tax refund

You may be able to get an income tax refund if you stopped working.

Apply for grants and loans

  • Macmillan and other charities offer small grants to help people living with cancer
  • Turn 2 Us offer a grant search service. This can help you find out who may be able to help with one-off costs
  • Councils sometimes help people living with illnesses. They may offer:
  • Grants
  • Other financial or practical support
  • Contact your local council

Check your insurance policies

Some policies pay out if you are covered for:

  • Life insurance for terminal illnesses
  • Mortgage payment protection
  • Critical illness cover
  • Income protection insurance

Insurance pay outs can affect state benefit claims.

Look at your pensions, savings, or investments

If you are of pension age:

  • You already get the state pension
  • You can also get Pension Credit if you are on a low income

If you have a private pension:

  • You may be able to withdraw part of it
  • Check the rules with your pension provider

Taking money you saved for retirement is a big step. We suggest you:

Reduce your spending

See if you can spend less each month.

This can be hard.

Read our guides to reducing your spending for some ideas.

Rent and mortgages

You may be able to:

If you have a mortgage:

  • Contact your mortgage lender or insurer
  • See if you have insurance in place which covers payments while you are ill

There is also a government benefit called ‘Support for Mortgage Interest’.

To qualify, you must be getting one of the following:

  • Income support
  • Jobseeker’s allowance
  • Employment and support allowance
  • Pension credit
  • Universal credit

To claim, contact:

Utility bills

Contact your supplier and explain you are ill.

They may offer you extra support, like:

  • Free annual safety checks
  • Emergency call-out priority
  • Protection from being cut off if you fall into arrears

You may be able to save money by:

You could also apply for:

Travel and parking

You may be able to get a Blue Badge if you are less mobile.

  • This lets you park free of charge in many car parks and on-street parking bays

Some hospitals offer help with parking costs.

  • Speak to yours to see what support they have available

Apply for a free bus pass if you are over 60.

Prescriptions and health costs

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland:

  • Everything is free of charge for all NHS patients

In England

  • You usually pay for prescriptions
  • Unless you have cancer

You can use the NHS 'Pre-payment certificate' to reduce costs.

  • Ask your GP about the exemption certificate (FP92A form)
  • Sometimes you do not have to pay

Getting a friend or relative to help

You can choose someone to handle your money for you.

  • This is called power of attorney
  • You might want to do this if you are worried about being able to cope

The government has an online service to set this up.

If you need help filling out the forms:

  • Call the Office of the Public Guardian
  • Telephone- 0300 456 0300

Age UK also offers support and advice.

Getting help with debts

Use our online advice tool for free debt help.