Cancer Patients Twice As Likely To Fall Into Fuel Poverty As The General Population

Macmillan Calls On Government To Extend Winter Fuel Payment To Cancer Patients

Paying fuel bills can be hard at the best of times but you are twice as likely to fall into fuel poverty[1] if recently treated for cancer, according to new research from Macmillan Cancer Support. 

Following diagnosis, three-quarters (73 per cent[2]) of cancer patients in active treatment need to use their heating more yet those under 60 do not qualify for any help to pay for it. 

That is why Macmillan is calling on the Government to offer cancer patients most in need[2] the winter fuel payment, just like the elderly, and also to include them in the group entitled to the new mandatory social tariffs that energy companies will have to offer[3].

Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive at Macmillan Cancer Support says: "People undergoing cancer treatment spend more time at home as they're often too ill to work. The effects of treatment can make them feel the cold more, and then they need the heating on higher and for longer which leads to increased fuel bills; all at a time when their household income plummets."

Ciarán continues: "Struggling with fuel bills is a situation that can very quickly spiral out of control for cancer patients and it is simply not fair. They need help from the Government and they need it now." 

Rachel, 40, from Lancashire, is married with two teenage children.  Her husband Iain has a long history of cancer, first with testicular cancer and more recently thyroid cancer.   Rachel says: ‘With the soaring cost of gas and electricity, we've become terrified of the bills.  My husband gets very cold but we're scared to put the heating on all day so instead, he wraps up in layers of clothing.  Not only that but we worry about using the washing machine and dryer. 

My husband's illness means he sweats and vomits; keeping his clothes and bedding clean is a constant job and adds to our fuel costs.  The children and I skip bathing so that we can afford his daily shower and bath - if we don't keep his skin clean there's real danger of infection.' "We will be spending another winter terrified of fuel bills, on top of all the other worries about cancer," says husband Iain. 

Of all the people helped financially by Macmillan over one year [4], nearly 12,000 people (43 per cent) asked for help with their fuel bills. But the charity cannot do it alone.  Support Macmillan's campaign to freeze out fuel poverty for cancer patients by signing the pledge at www.macmillan.org.uk/fuelpoverty 

Anyone struggling with their fuel bills can get hold of a free fuel poverty fact sheet by calling 0808 808 00 00 or visiting www.macmillan.org.uk/fuelpoverty

Notes to Editors:

[1] 9.6 % of the general (non vulnerable) population are in fuel poverty, Department of Energy and Climate Change fuel poverty statistics, 2009. 19 % of cancer patients undergoing treatment in the last year are in fuel poverty, Macmillan Cancer Support Online survey of 974 people with cancer, May 2009

[2] Macmillan defines cancer patients in need as those undergoing treatment in the past year, who are terminally ill, or in receipt of Council Tax Benefit or Housing Benefit  

[3] In July 2009, the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan announced their intention to bring in legislation to introduce a mandatory social tariff from March 2011. Under this, the energy companies will be obliged to offer an energy bill rebate to a select group of vulnerable people.

[4] Between 1st September 08 and 31st August 09, 11,847 people were helped with their fuel bills -  43 per cent of the total number of people helped financially (27,458) by Macmillan. This compares to 10,019 people who were helped during the same period the previous year - an 18 per cent increase. 

Fuel poverty is defined as when a family needs to spend at least 10 per cent of their income on heating and lighting their home.

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