Principal treatment centres specialise in treating children with cancer. With fewer than 20 in the UK, it could mean that you and your child will need to travel long distances for treatment. If you are struggling to meet the costs of travelling to hospital or other NHS-funded treatment, you may be able to get help from the Government.
The first thing to do is speak to the team at your hospital to find out whether you can benefit from ‘shared care’. This means that some parts of your child's care could be provided closer to home. Some hospitals also run their own transport schemes.
CLIC Sargent also provides free, self-catering accommodation close to many of the principal treatment centres for families.
Get financial support if you're on a low income
The Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme provides refunds for travelling and parking for treatment or some tests – so make sure you keep your receipts!
Some services may not be included (for example, out of hour appointments, routine check-ups or screening).
What could I get help with?
You will be reimbursed for ‘reasonable travel costs’. This could be the cost of your petrol, plus car parking and toll charges, or public transport. If you need to travel by taxi, check with your care team first whether you can claim this back.
If your child is being treated in London, you may be able to claim congestion charges back with the Congestion Charge NHS Reimbursement Scheme.
In most cases, you will be able to claim up to three months after the date you travel. It's also possible to claim advance payments to help you attend appointments.
How do I apply?
You will need to be referred by your doctor to receive help from this scheme. For more information read the NHS HC11 leaflet on health costs. You can also get help from the Help with Health Costs team via their Facebook page.
Parking charges can add to the financial strain during cancer treatment and we know this is a big concern for parents.
The good news for patients in Scotland and Wales is that most parking charges have been abolished and in Northern Ireland parking is free for chemotherapy and radiotherapy patients.
However, in England you may still be charged and each hospital will set its own rate. If this is the case, make sure you:
- Check with your Patient Liaison Service (PALS) whether your hospital has any parking concession schemes
- Check whether you are eligible for the Blue Badge Parking Permit. Some hospitals will provide reduced or free parking for holders
- If you are on a low income, see the above information about the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme.
Lease a new vehicle
The Motability Scheme allows you to exchange your child's mobility payment for a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair - and make adaptions if you need to stow a wheelchair, for example.
Parents or carers can order a car on behalf of their child, or if your child is of driving age, they can benefit from this themselves and nominate you as a named driver.
Your child must have at least 12 months remaining of:
- higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
The lease will include insurance, servicing, maintenance, breakdown assistance and up to two named drivers.
The scheme is run by the national charity Motability who also provides charitable grants to those most in need.
Vehicle tax exemption or reduction
If your child is receiving the higher or enhanced rate mobility components of DLA or PIP, then you won't have to pay vehicle tax.
A 50% reduction will also be given if your child gets the standard rate mobility component of PIP.
You can only have one vehicle exempt from tax and it must only be used for your child’s needs. You can claim the exemption when you apply for tax.
Travelling abroad for treatment
If your child has been approved to travel abroad for high-energy proton beam therapy the NHS will fund your transport and accommodation. The NHS will also cover the costs of car hire, petrol and taxis if necessary when travelling to Switzerland or the USA. However, you will need to pay for food, days out or phone calls.
CLIC Sargent can also provide a financial grant for those travelling abroad for proton beam therapy.
- Learn more about what you can do to cut the cost of travel and other living expenses
- Access support if you or your partner are employed
- Look at our bite-sized benefits information to see if you’re entitled to claim benefits, including the mobility components
Updated July 2017, next review due 2018.