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The last week of 2012 saw a dramatic spike in grants given out by Macmillan Cancer Support for cancer patients struggling to cope with their fuel bills.
Macmillan paid out £216,453 in the final week of 2012, which was a third higher than the weekly average for 2012. More than half (55%) of the people helped during this period were given grants towards heating bills.1 The increase in demand comes just weeks after almost all major energy suppliers hiked their bills by an average of 8%2.
These figures back up recent Macmillan research showing around 27,000 cancer patients in the UK could be behind with paying their fuel bills3 and owe their fuel providers as much as £2.8million in overdue payments4.
Sarah, 61, Somerset, was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer in 2010. She now suffers from severe lymphoedema and osteoporosis:
'Last winter I was despairing, it was a terrible struggle. I’m stuck on benefits, am widowed with debts, and had to go to bed and hibernate to try and keep warm as I was so worried about my energy bills.'
'I was put on a prepayment meter so if I didn’t have the money, I didn’t have any heating. Macmillan’s grant to help with my fuel payments was a life saver. I can honestly say I’d be dead if it weren’t for their help.'
Maureen Rutter, Director of Direct Services of Macmillan Cancer Support, said:
'While most of us were enjoying the festive period, cancer patients were clearly in desperate need of financial support. These figures and our recent research show just how much of a problem keeping up with fuel bills is for cancer patients – especially as we face freezing conditions over the next few days and months of winter still ahead.
'Cancer patients need to put their energy into getting better. Instead many are living in cold homes anxious about how they're going to cope with rocketing fuel bills.
'The Government is revising its fuel poverty strategy this year and we are calling on them to offer real protection to cancer patients.'
The second highest request for grants during this period was for clothing. Macmillan’s previous research showed that one in three (34%) cancer patients have to put on outdoor clothes indoors to try to keep warm3.
If you’re worried about paying your fuel bills or need other financial help call 0808 808 00 00 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk/heating|
Andrea Shufflebotham, Senior Media & PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
0207 840 4689 (out of hours 07801 307068)
1 Some people may have received additional grants to help them with other types of expenditure.
2 Estimate is an average of the publically announced average rises for the following big five energy companies: NPower (9% from 26 November 2012), British Gas (6% from 16 November 2012 ), Scottish Power (7% from 3 December 2012), SSE (9% from 15 October 2012) and EDF (11% from 7 December 2012).
3 Macmillan/YouGov online survey of 2,142 UK adults living with cancer. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26 November and 14 December 2012. Results in this release are based on the 535 respondents who have been diagnosed within the last 2 years. 5% of this group said they were currently in debt to their heating provider. The number of cancer patients are estimated for the UK as those diagnosed in a year plus those surviving one year. Cancer incidence data for 2010 for the UK are taken from Office for National Statistics; Information Services Division (ISD) Scotland; Welsh Cancer Intelligence & Surveillance Unit; Northern Ireland Cancer Registry. One year survival for England is assumed to be equivalent across the UK and applied to cancer incidence, one year survival is taken from the Office for National Statistics for patients diagnosed in 1996-2010 and followed up to 2011.
4 Of the 5% of respondents who said that they are currently in debt to their
• 23% owe more than £200
• 15% owe between £101-£200
• 38% owe £50-£100
• 23% owe less than £50
Based on the estimate of cancer patients diagnosed in a year plus those surviving one year patients diagnosed within the last two years, Macmillan estimates that the total amount of debt could be as high as £2.8million. Debt figures calculated using the mid-point of each band, and £200 for the ‘more than £200’ band.
Macmillan Cancer Support works closely with npower and together have developed the Fuel Management Programme to lift people affected by cancer out of fuel poverty. Together we provide assistance with bills and arrears as well as energy efficiency advice. Over 1,150 npower customers have received help from the programme. If you are an npower customer with cancer and are spending more than 10% of your income on fuel or for information about how Macmillan can help you visit Macmillan.org.uk/heating.
Cancer is the toughest fight most of us will ever face. But you don’t have to go through it alone. The Macmillan team is with you every step of the way.
We are the nurses and therapists helping you through treatment. The experts on the end of the phone. The advisers telling you which benefits you’re entitled to. The volunteers giving you a hand with the everyday things. The campaigners improving cancer care. The fundraisers who make it all possible.
We are Macmillan Cancer Support.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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