11 Ways you can help your family or friend raise funds for their cancer treatment in NZ

When health forces you to quit work, any saving you have can be drained incredibly fast!

The true cost of cancer in New Zealand is actually quite frightening. Not only does cancer impact on your health but you and your family’s finances too.

As a patient, when your health forces you to stop working, any savings you may be lucky enough to have can be exhausted pretty quickly. You may only be down to one wage in the household but if your partner has to look after you and everyone else in the family, that wage can disappear too.

So how can you raise funds to keep yourself or a loved one alive? We have put together a list of 11 ways you can explore to help pay for on going medical costs and unfunded drugs here in New Zealand…

1. Fundraising Directory NZ

Family and friends often want to get i

nvolved in a time of need and The Fundraising Directory NZ has an A-Z list of great ideas and links for them to choose from.

From crowd funding with Givealittle pages to sausage sizzles there is something available for everyone to get involved with while you concentrate on securing the larger dollar options listed below.

2. WINZ (Work & Income NZ)

WINZ is run by the Ministry of Social Development and is there to help provide support to New Zealanders. Benefits can be given to those who are unable to support themselves and financial assistance is only given from the date that you contact them so make sure they are first contacts on your list.

WINZ can supply a Community Services Card to help with medical costs and other payments to help out if you have an immediate need for an essential item or service.

Short-term financial help is available through the Sickness Benefit and longer-term help is provided through the Invalids Benefit. You may qualify for extra help through accommodation supplements and assistance with medical bills.

If you need to travel some distance to your medical appointments you may qualify for transport and accommodation costs.

For information on your entitlements contact WINZ on

0800 559 009.

3. Ministry of Health

Some cancer treatments cause hair loss. Through the Ministry of Health, it is possible to claim up to $408.00 to put towards the cost of a wig or headpiece for temporary hair loss, but seeing as most human hair wigs (the more natural option) start at around $2,000 that still leaves a large sum of money to find at short notice.

It may mean the difference between feeling comfortable in your own skin or feeling self-conscious while you undergo treatment. If you have some form of health cover, you may have more options available to assist with this. Click here for more information and how to claim.

4. Hospitals – Treatment Support Grants

Private hospitals sometimes have access to grants from generous donors, to enable patients to receive treatment quickly.

Grants can be up to $10,000. Be sure to ask the head nurse or your oncologist at the private hospital to see if they have such a grant available.

5. Cash in your KiwiSaver

You may be able to withdraw your KiwiSaver savings early if you have an illness, injury or disability that either permanently affects your ability to work or poses a risk of death. You may need to provide medical evidence to support your application.

You can withdraw the total funds in your account including your contributions, your employers contributions, the $1,000 kickstart (if you were eligible) and any tax member credits.

To start this process contact your KiwiSaver provider.

6. Cash in life Insurance policy

If you are lucky enough to have life insurance you may have opted for a policy that means if you have a serious or terminal illness you can claim a lump sum portion of that life insurance on diagnosis to pay for treatments and recovery.

You do not need to wait until death. This is sometimes referred to as Critical Illness, Trauma Insurance or Cancer Cover.

Contact your life insurer to see what policy you have.

7. Mortgage Repayment Insurance

If you have Mortgage Repayment Insurance, especially from a bank, it may have a disability extension. It could mean that either your mortgage payments are ‘waived’ by the insurer, or a claim may be payable for Total and Permanent Disablement benefit.

Total and Permanent Disablement Benefit may be claimed if you have been unable to work for more than 6 months and it is determined that you are totally and permanently disabled with no likelihood of ever returning to work again.

8. Ask your bank for a mortgage holiday

Most banks can provide a mortgage holiday if you ask for one. You may have the option of stopping your home loan repayments for up to 3 months.

This can take the heat off of having to come up with mortgage payments at a time when you may not be able to work. Provision of mortgage holidays is subject to meeting specific lending criteria and terms and conditions.

A mortgage holiday only stops the repayments. The interest on your outstanding loan balance still accrues during that time.

There must also be a minimum of 12 months between the expiry of a loan holiday and the beginning of another.

Ask your bank to see if you qualify.

9. Health insurance

Most Health Insurance companies will only offer a limited amount of money towards medical expenses or unfunded drugs.

Southern cross, New Zealand’s largest health insurer, has launched Cancer Assist in 2017, cover for cancer drugs not funded by Pharmac.

This will pay a lump sum of between $20,000 - $300,000 to policyholders diagnosed with a “qualifying cancer.” This policy is an optional extra and is added on to your existing policy.

Check with your Southern Cross provider if you have this policy.

10. Sell your assets

Sometimes selling your assets can be a quick way to raise some revenue. Assets can be described as your home, a business, a car or a boat.

Asset sales shouldn’t affect any benefit you may receive from WINZ but if you receive Accommodation Supplement, Temporary Additional Support or Special Benefit you do need to tell them about the sale.

If you invest the money and you get and earn interest, this will be counted as income.

The Ministry of Social Development have put together some rules and regulations around this which can be found here.

11. Reverse mortgage your house (home equity release)

For some, reverse mortgaging your home can be a great way to turn your house in to dollars without having to move.

A reverse mortgage lets you borrow funds using your home as security. This means you can free up part of the value of your house without having to sell it. The lender gets its money back (plus interest) when your house is sold – which is usually when you go into full-time care or upon death.

There are a few rules around this type of lending so it doesn’t work for everyone.

You must be at least 60 years of age before you can apply for a reverse mortgage.

You can only borrow a percentage of your home’s value and your home needs to be mortgage-free, although you may be able to borrow if you have a small mortgage left and use the loan to pay it off.

You can take the money as a lump sum, draw on it as needed, or receive regular payments. The last 2 options can help keep the interest down if you don't need the whole amount right away. But make sure the “regular payments” option won’t affect any income you’re getting from the government (this shouldn’t be a problem if all you get is NZ Super; if you get other assistance ask WINZ about how it might affect you).

Heartland Bank offers reverse mortgages as well as SBS Bank continues to offer its Advance Loan but talk to your own bank first for advice.

According to the Deloitte Australia report, In December 2013 there were 5338 NZ mortgage reversals with an average loan size of $83,229.

Always get independent legal advice before your loan is finalised as it is essential to make sure you fully understand how the reverse mortgage works.

Consumer.org.nz has a great in-depth article on reverse mortgages and explains in detail what to expect.

Originally written by Georgina Mason, March 2018, (borrowed with permission) Bowel Cancer Foundation Trust

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