A VITAL cancer support unit has secured £12m worth of financial help for almost 4,000 Inverclyde people over the last 10 years.

The achievements of the local Macmillan benefits service were revealed during a special reception to mark the group's milestone anniversary.

Since launching in June 2008, welfare officers have helped 3,800 people affected by the disease and generated £12m worth of financial help for clients.

The service is run by Macmillan Cancer Support in partnership with Inverclyde Council's Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP).

Jacqueline Coyle, who is the local welfare rights officer, said: "Cancer can have a large and negative impact on someone's finances.

"We know cancer patients very often experience a drop in income and increased costs as a result of their diagnosis.

"Many of them will never have claimed benefits before and trying to navigate the system and fill in long complex forms while dealing with the physical and emotional problems cancer brings can be very difficult.

"We are so glad to be there to help people when they need us most."

Staff, service users and representatives from a variety of organisations attended a celebratory event in the Grand Corridor of the Municipal Buildings in Greenock to mark the milestone tenth anniversary.

Among those in attendance were Janet Stewart, who lost her daughter Jen Shaw to cancer in March at the age of 30, and local mum Laura Collins, who is terminally ill, along with fundraising daughter Rebecca.

Councillor Robert Moran, Inverclyde Council's health and social care convener, was also at the event and he knows first-hand about the great work of the Macmillan team.

Mr Moran said: "These celebrations have particularly personal significance for me.

"I was diagnosed with bowel cancer eight years ago and it was through the support and advice of Macmillan that I managed to avoid added anxiety and stress.

"They were able to give me an idea of the benefits and grants I was entitled to and the service I received was first class.

"It allowed me to focus my energy on successfully beating the cancer.

"I'd like to send thanks both for myself and for everyone who has been given the care and support they need during probably the hardest and most traumatic periods of their lives."

The service is based between Hector McNeil House in Clyde Square and Ward F South at Inverclyde Royal Hospital.

As well as identifying benefits and grants patients may be entitled to, officers also fill in complex forms and can appeal if their client's application is unsuccessful.

They can also advise on issues that may arise regarding employment, debt or housing, for example, or refer patients on to a specialist adviser for additional advice.

Anthony Martin, a benefits project manager for Macmillan, said: "Staff go the extra mile to ensure people affected by cancer, as well as their family and friends, are fully supported."

Anyone who is affected by cancer and is looking for financial help and advice is encouraged to call Jacqueline Coyle on 715365.

Further information is also available by calling the Macmillan helpline on 0808 808 00 00 or by visiting www.macmillan.org.uk