Published: 00:04, 4 November 2015 | Updated: 00:04, 4 November 2015
Monica Grey is not a financial expert and she hates public speaking. But suddenly, at the age of 63, she found herself talking to a room full of the bosses of one of Britain’s best-known financial institutions.
Casually dressed in jeans, this quietly spoken cafe worker found her voice - and what she had to say about the way she was treated by banks after she was diagnosed with cancer left the bosses stunned.
But the most striking thing is that these executives from Nationwide Building Society really listened.
Now, Nationwide has become the first company to implement the reforms that Monica helped to come up with. It means that anyone who informs Nationwide that they have cancer will now get specialist financial help to assist them in keeping going while they undergo treatment.
Cancer battle: Monica Grey is giving advice to banks and building societies on how they should be treating vulnerable customers like her
Monica, who was treated for breast cancer three years ago, says: ‘I was terrified. Since the chemotherapy and radiation treatment, my brain is quite slow and I stammer and struggle to remember words. It makes expressing myself difficult.
‘But it was a relief to be heard by people who can make a real difference, and they were so kind and charming that I soon felt more confident.’
This year, Money Mail has been campaigning for companies to give better treatment to grieving families and those having to manage the finances of a loved one.
Following our suggestions, Britain’s biggest names are developing a Tell Us Once service which should save families hours of work when they need to tell a financial institution about the death of a loved one.
Meanwhile, a number of banks and building societies are independently transforming their business’s customer service for those who are sick or suffering a bereavement.
One in two people in the UK born after 1960 will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime, according to Cancer Research UK. Many are forced to give up work due to the side-effects of treatment. They also face extra expenses for heating and transport.
Cancer charity Macmillan hears from 400,000 patients every year who are struggling financially.
When she was first told she was suffering from breast cancer in December 2012, Monica, like many patients, was determined to keep working - in her case, six days a week at the cafe in her local garden centre.
She would schedule chemo-therapy appointments on her days off and then take the following day as holiday to recover.
But after three months, the treatment began to take its toll and Monica, from High Barnet in North London, had to reduce her hours and, eventually, give up work altogether.
But without a regular income, her debts piled up. She was too young to claim a state pension and had no savings to fall back on.
She got £70 a week from the Government for being too ill to work - but this was barely enough to cover her petrol for regular visits to the hospital.
Monica asked her bank for help. She wanted a small overdraft to tide her over. Having lost her income, when a bill was paid it would leave her overdrawn - resulting in charges.
Monica tried to explain that the authorised overdraft would give her breathing space to pay her bills and avoid fees. But the bank refused to give her this.
She says: ‘It was humiliating having to ask my bank for help in the first place - and then to be turned away destroyed what little self-confidence I had left.
‘I tried so hard to keep my job - working keeps you alive. But as the months went on, I was too weak to stand on my feet all day. I barely had enough energy to change a pillow case.’
As part of her cancer treatment, Monica was assigned a Macmillan nurse, and she gave Monica advice on getting her finances in order.
Help: The cancer charity helped Monica to apply for food vouchers and arranged transport to the hospital
The cancer charity helped her to apply for food vouchers, arranged transport to the hospital and even paid for a new pair of shoes when Monica’s feet were too swollen to fit in her own. This all helped tide Monica over until she was able to claim her state pension aged 62.
After her treatment had ended, Monica was asked to speak to other Macmillan nurses to explain the financial struggles she’d faced.
The talk went so well that Macmillan’s chief executive, Lynda Thomas, asked Monica to speak to the bosses of Nationwide, which had approached the charity to ask advice about dealing with cancer patients.
Nationwide chief executive Graham Beale says: ‘What hit home when working with the Macmillan team, and hearing first-hand from people such as Monica who have been affected by cancer, were the things we all take for granted - such as filling in a form or making a phone call. When you’re going through treatment, they’re difficult things to do, but easy things for us to help support.’
Nationwide has now launched a scheme where customers affected by cancer will be assigned a case worker with the power to waive late-payment fees, extend overdrafts and offer mortgage repayment holidays. It hopes to extend this service to other vulnerable customers soon.
The building society has also improved its service for customers who have set up power of attorney - which gives someone you trust the legal authority to manage your money should you become too ill to do so.
Since Money Mail launched its Looking After Your Legacy campaign, Lloyds Banking Group has put in place dedicated phone numbers for those calling about a bereave-ment. For Lloyds it is 0800 015 0012; Halifax 0800 028 1057, and Bank of Scotland 0800 056 0073.
The bank has also launched a guide available online or in branch. And once you notify Lloyds of a death, it will inform all of its other brands, so you don’t have to do so.
HSBC has updated its website so information on handling a death is just a few clicks away on its home page. It is also launching a new guide this month.
The bank has also promised to prioritise bereaved customers when they visit a branch, and see them within ten minutes.
Read more: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/saving/article-3302587/Brave-woman-forced-bank-bosses-help-cancer-sufferers-tells-struggled-refused-small-overdraft.html#ixzz3tMVmOvYa
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