The Cancer Council Pro Bono Legal Program provides support for cancer patients, carers and bereaved carers to obtain important advice. The work is carried out locally by Donovan Oates Hannaford Lawyers, specifically Hadyn Oriti. FOCUS chats to Hadyn about his involvement, alongside Tim Chapman, Community Program Coordinator for the Cancer Council NSW.
Hadyn, Donovan Oates Hannaford have long been a supporter of the Cancer Council, and for you personally that involves volunteering your time in legal pro bono. When did your role of volunteering commence, and what interested you most in this work?
The firm took up the call from the Cancer Council for firms to participate in providing pro bono services around 2011. Norm Morgan, our senior partner, was the partner responsible back then. Many in the Port Macquarie community would know that Norm sadly died in September 2012 from melanoma. So, it was a no brainer for us to continue his work. I took on the role not sure exactly what it would entail, but have since found it to be immensely fulfilling.
And the Cancer Council just makes it so easy. When people are referred to us, the Cancer Council has already spoken to them and gathered all of the information we need to provide solutions. I can’t speak highly enough of the work of the social workers at the Mid North Coast Cancer Institute and the staff of the Cancer Council in this program.
Which areas of personal and business advice do you specifically provide assistance with?
The service is free. This is because it provides services to people of limited means. Most of the time the service involves ensuring their estate goes to those they want to benefit. It also ensures there are people they trust appointed to look after their finances and medical treatment, especially when they can no longer make decisions about those kinds of things.
Sometimes we can assist with solutions in relation to their superannuation. Other times it is making sure that their collection of many decades of movie posters goes to the right person.
Hadyn, what is one of the most common questions people ask you about?
You know, people who have been told that the prognosis is not good obviously have a terrible weight on their shoulders. I can’t imagine their inner turmoil and the thoughts that must be going through their head. In every case, however, when I see them all they want to know is that, to the extent they possibly can, there is nothing left undone.
They don’t want to leave some complication for their family or others to look after. They are thinking of others, even at that time and with all of the stuff they have to deal with. Now in this context, I don’t do much. The best that can be said about what I do is that we take a weight off their shoulders. Knowing that things have been sorted for them really does seem to lighten their disposition. It is uncanny how many times people have said something like, “I am so glad that’s done and out of the way”.
Who benefits from the help you are able to provide? Is it just the patients, or does it extend to families too?
My clients are the individuals, but I think their families benefit from the work we do too – especially if we can assist them accessing their superannuation entitlements early. Finances are usually very tight. Kids need to be clothed, fed and watered. Life doesn’t stop just because they are sick. So if we can assist in any way to prevent catastrophic financial outcomes for families, that is a bonus.
But their spouse also needs the comfort of knowing that they have all the paperwork and the authority they need to be able to give instructions to medical people or get information from the hospital or to pay bills. We help them with that.
Tim, what is the Pro Bono Program?
The Pro Bono Program has been specifically designed to provide people who have been affected by cancer access to professional legal, financial, workplace and small business advice about issues arising from a cancer diagnosis; to relieve their financial burden and provide some respite from the issue; and to contribute to their wellbeing by reducing stress.
This service helps people affected by cancer (patients, carers and bereaved carers) access free legal, financial, workplace and small business advice via four pro bono programs – the Legal Referral Service, the Financial Planning Referral Service, the Small Business Advisory Service and the Workplace Advisory Service. This is a means tested service, which is free for people who cannot afford the cost of advice.
How can locals affected by cancer access the pro bono assistance?
Health professionals can refer clients to the Cancer Council Pro Bono Program by completing a referral form (available by calling the Pro Bono Program or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org). Potential clients can also self-refer by contacting Cancer Council Information and Support on 13 11 20.
Health professionals and support group leaders can also contact the Pro Bono Case Managers to arrange free community education sessions on legal, financial, workplace or small business issues for cancer support groups or other community groups.
Tim, what additional help can be accessed through the 13 11 20 number?
Cancer Council 13 11 20 Information and Support is a confidential service where you can speak to a specialist cancer professional about anything to do with cancer, including:
Emotional support if you or someone you care about has cancer;
How to prevent cancer;
Questions about early detection;
How to cope with treatment and its side effects;
Practical support that is available to anyone affected by cancer;
End of life issues.
Cancer Council 13 11 20 Information and Support provides access to:
Peer support (patient to patient);
Telephone and online support groups;
Referrals to financial planning referral service;
Referrals to legal referral service;
Referrals to the workplace advisory service;
Home support and transport to treatment;
Cancer survivor programs;
Publications and DVDs about cancer.