Cancer patients should be priority to be lifted out of fuel poverty

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FREEZING cancer patients who can’t afford to heat their homes due to rising fuel bills are increasingly relying on charity handouts to keep warm.

Macmillan Cancer Support has given more than £6,000 in financial grants to 18 cancer patients in Berwickshire, and 61% of the people helped with their energy bills.

Across the UK, Macmillan is giving out almost twice as much in grants to help patients heat their homes than it was five years ago.

Elspeth Atkinson, director of Macmillan Cancer Support for Scotland and Northern Ireland said: said: “To feel too scared to put the heating on because of soaring energy bills is an unacceptable reality for thousands of vulnerable cancer patients who feel the cold more and spend long periods of time at home.

“When the charity was established 100 years ago, founder Douglas Macmillan helped cancer patients by handing out sacks of coal to keep them warm. It is shocking that a century on, people who are diagnosed with this devastating disease are still relying on charity help to heat their freezing homes.”

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, their income often drops because they are too ill to work. Seven in ten people under 55 experience a reduced income losing on average 50 per cent. However, their bills often rise because they need to spend more time at home and feel the chill more because of their treatment.

Despite the impact fuel poverty has on cancer patients, few patients benefit from Government and energy companies’ schemes.

Macmillan is calling for the ongoing Independent Fuel Poverty Review to prioritise cancer patients for help and for more to be done to ensure cancer patients are lifted out of fuel poverty.

Professor John Hills, director of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at LSE, who is carrying out the review, has published an interim report which confirms the seriousness of the problem of fuel poverty.

Households in or on the margins of poverty facd extra costs to keep warm above those for typical households with much higher incomes - up to £1.1 billion in 2009 - before recent price increases.

People on low incomes and in the worst housing cannot afford essential investment to improve the energy efficiency of the whole housing stock and combat climate change.

Professor Hills, said: “The evidence presented in my interim report shows how serious the problem of fuel poverty is, increasing health risks and hardship for millions of people, and hampering urgent action to reduce energy waste and carbon emissions.

“This review confirms that the way in which the problem is currently described in law is correct: people are affected by fuel poverty if they are ‘living on a lower income in a home which cannot be kept warm at reasonable cost.”

To find out about the help available to cancer patients, or to make a donation to support Macmillan’s work, please call freephone 0808 808 0000 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk