How Virgin Money is helping people affected by cancer
Money worries are the last thing you need when you’re dealing with a cancer diagnosis. That’s why Virgin Money has launched an in-store service to support customers affected by the disease. This is the first service of its kind to be offered in a UK bank.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can have a significant impact on your finances. According to research by Macmillan, on average people are £570 a month worse off as a result of a cancer diagnosis. And that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic. Half a million people across the UK have experienced financial difficulties in the last year related to the coronavirus pandemic. This has left more than 100,000 people with cancer struggling to pay for basic essentials such as food and bills.
Virgin Money has teamed up with its charity partner of the year, Macmillan Cancer Support, to launch a bespoke service for customers affected by cancer. Customer-facing colleagues have been trained to become Macmillan Guides who will provide vital emotional support, information and signposting to other sources of help available and do whatever it takes to make sure anyone with cancer can live life in a way that’s as problem-free as possible.
Peter Dockar, head of customer experience development at Virgin Money, said: “Sadly many of us will have been touched by a cancer diagnosis, either personally or through a friend or family member and know it can have a devastating impact, not only physically but emotionally and financially. That is why we are working with Macmillan, our charity partner of the year, to launch the Macmillan Guide role, the first service of its kind offered by a UK bank, designed to support those customers living with or affected by cancer.
“I was shocked to learn that more than a third of people with cancer are severely financially impacted by their diagnosis at a time when they already have enough to worry about. We hope that through their bespoke training from Macmillan Cancer Support our Guides can provide emotional, practical and financial support and connect them to Macmillan’s vital services.”
Andrea Brownless, Macmillan Guide and member of Virgin Money’s credit card team, has her own unique experience of cancer: she lost both her parents, sister-in-law and aunt to the disease and has faced the pain it can cause first hand. “I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to become a Macmillan Guide,” she says. “Over the years I’ve seen my family and friends be afflicted by this cruel disease and, although you build up a certain resilience you are never fully prepared for the news of a diagnosis. I am by no means an expert on how cancer affects people, but I have sympathy with people’s situations, emotions, feelings; I’m never judgemental. I feel I can offer a glimmer of hope to help support and just generally have that listening ear at all times. Life is not easy.”
Michelle Moulds, meanwhile, volunteered to become a Macmillan Guide at Virgin Money’s Fargate Store after previous experience volunteering as a receptionist at a local Rotherham Hospice. She says: “I wanted to offer my time and support to our customers living with cancer and their families; this could involve offering financial support, signposting to Macmillan services or simply listening in a quiet corner,” she says. “It makes me feel really proud to think that I could make someone feel better, if only for a short period of time.”
Virgin Money’s guides will listen to customers, understand their needs and provide personalised support. They recognise that no customer’s experience will be the same, so nor should their§ service be. “I believe this initiative is vitally important as people can often feel like they are on their own when diagnosed with cancer,” says Andrea. “My advice to others in these circumstances would be to take offers of support, don’t turn people away, but always know whatever you do, don’t judge yourself. It’s okay to not be okay and to admit to yourself that this is the case.”
What’s really helpful after a diagnosis is clear-headedness, she thinks. “I think it is so important you have the support of someone who can detach themselves from the situation and act as an impartial observer, just so you don’t miss any important information. Your head ends up full of ‘stuff’ and nothing makes sense and that is why I believe the Macmillan Guides is such an important initiative.”
Up to 50 colleagues from across Virgin Money are taking part in the Macmillan Guides programme. If you need help from one of the Guides, you can ask to speak to a Macmillan Guide when you call our contact centre or visit one of our stores.