A Virgin Money worker from Swindon is among 49 colleagues nationwide taking part in a bespoke support service for people living with or affected by cancer.
Virgin Money joined forces with Macmillan Cancer Support to launch the Virgin Money Macmillan Guides pilot scheme, the first of its kind for a UK bank.
In their role as Macmillan Guides, selected customer-facing colleagues are trained by Macmillan to help provide the best possible support to people affected by cancer.
Kimberley Rowe, a host at Virgin Money’s Regent Circus branch, volunteered to become a Macmillan Guide after witnessing the impact of cancer at first hand.
She said: “Macmillan Cancer Support is a charity close to my heart. As a family we have been impacted by cancer personally and the support Macmillan provided has been invaluable.
"The team at the Swindon store are keen to support my role with Macmillan as much as possible following another colleague’s experience with cancer, while other members of the team have sadly lost close family members and understand the devastating impact cancer can have.
“It is so important to me that our customers feel comfortable to discuss anything with us, and if I can support people affected by cancer in any way - or simply be here as a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on - I am more than happy to do so.”
Colleagues are trained to understand the practical, emotional and financial issues people affected by cancer may face, and to help them take positive action.
This could include helping people navigate the financial support available at Virgin Money, offering guidance about the variety of support from Macmillan to help with wider concerns, signposting to local community groups or simply being there to listen.
The initiative is launching at a time when Macmillan research shows that 270,000 people with cancer in the UK - or nine percent - feel they have no one to talk to about their worries because of the pandemic, and 870,000 - or 29 percent - feel stressed, anxious or depressed because of covid-19.
South Swindon MP and Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland said: “This is a wonderful initiative by Virgin Money and Macmillan Cancer Support.
"To have a specially trained Macmillan Guide in our local Swindon Store will bring much needed financial and emotional support to anyone affected by cancer.
"It’s vital we support each other now more than ever and the Virgin Money Macmillan Guides will go a long way to helping ease what can be a difficult experience.”
Macmillan found that around half a million people with cancer in the UK were experiencing some kind of financial impact from the pandemic in the run-up to the last national lockdown, and estimates that more than 100,000 people with cancer are struggling to pay for basic essentials such as food, bills, rent or their mortgage as a result of the impact of covid-19.
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.”
Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Due to the impact of covid-19 we know that this is the most worrying time in recent history to get a cancer diagnosis, and for many people receiving the life-changing news that you have cancer is nothing short of a financial wrecking ball.
"That’s why we’re thrilled to launch the Macmillan Guide initiative with Virgin Money, a service that will provide vital emotional and financial support to people affected by cancer when they need it most.”