Freeze out fuel poverty

Nearly one in five people with cancer turn off the heating, even though they're cold, because they're worried about paying their energy bills. Not enough people with cancer who are terminally ill, having treatment or receiving certain benefits get the financial help they need to keep their homes warm. 

We campaigned for additional financial support for people with cancer who were in particular need and struggling with their energy bills.

As part of our campaign, we created a giant knitting machine (infi-knit) to highlight the impact of fuel poverty on people with cancer. Watch our infi-knit machine in action in our video.

Campaign success in England, Scotland and Wales

In England, Scotland and Wales the government announced the Warm Home Discount Scheme to help people struggling to pay their energy bills. The scheme, funded by the six biggest energy companies, provides a rebate of £140 to customers who are living in, or at risk of, fuel poverty. Macmillan campaigned to ensure that people with cancer were considered under the scheme.

Will you be entitled to support?

You will automatically receive the Warm Home Discount provided your supplier is part of the scheme, your name (or your partner’s) is on the bill and you’re getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (even if you get Savings Credit as well).

If you or someone in your household is affected by cancer you may not automatically receive the rebate.  In this case you will need to apply directly to your energy company provided your supplier is part of the scheme. You may be entitled if you’re either:

  • getting the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit
  • on a low income

This scheme operates largely on a first come, first served basis, as there is a limited amount of money in the fund. Find out if you are eligible by checking with your supplier or contacting Energy Saving Advice Service in England and Wales or Home Energy Scotland. Visit www.gov.uk/warmthiswinter for more information.

If you have cancer and are struggling to pay your energy bills please contact your energy supplier who may be able to offer help and support. For more advice on managing your fuel bills and keeping warm without the worry, visit our cancer information section.

Our bills went through the roof and worrying about how we were going to pay them was the last thing we needed.

Joy Beddows, campaigner for Macmillan


Success in Northern Ireland

Following Macmillan’s campaign, the Northern Ireland Executive gave cancer patients a one off payment of £100 to help with their fuel bills. This was much needed help for cancer patients who faced difficulties in paying their heating bills after going through treatment. It was expected that at least 4,200 patients benefited from this funding and went some way to ensuring cancer survivors were more comfortable in their own homes.


Infi-knit thanks to all our knitters

As part of our fuel poverty campaign, we created a giant knitting machine to highlight the impact of fuel poverty on people with cancer. Campaigners were asked to tell us what things keep them warm – whether it was a bowl of homemade soup, or their favourite dressing gown. Their messages were turned into pieces of knitting by our Knit-Bot machine, and could be viewed through a web cam. All of the messages were knitted together to make ‘Infi-Knit’, our giant woolly scarf petition. Over 5,000 people took part, making the scarf over 127 metres long.

Macmillan campaigners Joy and Mary presented our giant woolly scarf petition to Greg Barker MP, the government minister responsible for fuel poverty at the time. Joy and Mary were pleased that the Minister took their concerns seriously and was keen to help to ensure people with cancer vulnerable to fuel poverty are able to access more support.

'It was great to meet the minister, who took our concerns seriously. When my husband Dennis was being treated for cancer he really suffered from the cold. Our bills went through the roof and worrying about how we were going to pay them was the last thing we needed.' - Joy (pictured above), campaigner for Macmillan



Why are fuel bills an issue for people with cancer?

  • Cancer treatment can make you less active, lead to hair loss and affect your appetite, making you feel the cold.
  • Spending more time at home during treatment or recovery can lead to higher electricity and gas bills.
  • Facing larger bills on a tighter budget - if you aren't able to work full-time during treatment or recovery - is a serious concern.


Why aren't people with cancer getting the help they need?

  • The Winter Fuel Payment is a one-off annual payment made to everyone over 60 to help with fuel bills. But people with cancer, under 60, do not receive this help, even if they are struggling to heat their homes.
  • Energy efficiency grants and social tariffs can give people a valuable discount on their bills. But not enough people with cancer are eligible for them.
  • People aren't always aware of how to access help, if it is available, which means many are missing out.


What we wanted to change

  • People with cancer who are terminally ill, having treatment or receiving certain benefits should receive a discount on their energy bills.
  • The Winter Fuel Payment should be extended to people with cancer who are in particular need and struggling with their energy bills.
  • The government and energy companies should do more to raise awareness of the help available to people with cancer.


The facts

  • Nearly 1 in 5 people living with cancer turn the heating off, even though they feel cold.
  • Fuel poverty is when someone has to spend more than 10% of their income on energy to heat and power their home.
  • There are 5.5 million households living in fuel poverty.
  • 1 in 4 people having cancer treatment struggle to pay their energy bills.
  • 6 out of 10 people with cancer have had higher energy bills since diagnosis.