Cancer patients risk being left out in the cold this winter

Macmillan cancer support

As the clocks go back and people turn their heating up, research shows cancer patients are estimated to spend an additional £15.7m a year on their energy bills

New figures by Macmillan Cancer Support and npower estimate that people diagnosed with cancer in the UK over the last two years spend an additional £15.7 million a year on their energy bills, as a result of using more energy due to their illness and treatment.

People undergoing cancer treatment are often at home and feel the cold more due to side effects such as weight and hair loss and reduced energy levels, so tend to turn their heating up. This can result in their energy consumption going up while their income may be significantly reduced, making energy costs a big concern for cancer patients.

So far this year Macmillan has received over 14,000 enquiries from cancer patients and their loved ones (equating to over 53 interactions a day) about their energy costs, a 15% increase from 2015ii. It’s estimated that this winteriii an additional 6,400iv people will contact the charity asking for support.

Today Macmillan and npower are highlighting the support available for people living with cancer through npower’s Macmillan Fund and Macmillan’s Energy Advice Team. npower’s Macmillan Fund is the only programme in the UK offering bespoke support to npower customers living with cancer by capping energy bills and writing off debt.  Macmillan Energy Advisors, who are part-funded by npower, offer support and advice to help people living with cancer regardless of their energy supplier.

In the last 12 months Macmillan’s Energy Advice Team has seen a 33% increase in calls and on average deal with 20 calls a day from people affected by cancer v. This is expected to rise in the coming months as people turn their heating up and need it on for longer.

Worryingly only 6% of people living with cancer who are financially impacted by their diagnosis are aware that they may be entitled to receive support to pay their energy billsvi yet almost 60% of those who are severely financially impacted by their diagnosis are unable to heat their home adequately vii.

Over the last 12 years, npower has given over £8 million to help over 32,000 families by providing them with support such as emergency energy grants or writing off their debt. npower’s Macmillan Fund has helped almost 4,000 cancer patients turn their heating on and up, writing off £4.2 million in debt, an average of £1,655 per household whilst on the scheme.


 

Case study

After npower customer, Sue, aged 59 from Essex, was diagnosed with terminal pelvic cancer in April 2016. Sue was no longer able to work and began claiming benefits.  After speaking to Macmillan she was helped by npower’s Macmillan’s Fund:

“Due to my treatment, I’m at home all the time”, says Sue. “As my income has come down, I couldn’t pay my energy bills; it took months to sort my benefits out so I had no income whatsoever. I thought I was going to lose my home. I thought I was going to lose everything. I was paying £220 a month on electricity and I just couldn’t afford it.

“When Macmillan explained they could get my payments down to £28 a month. I was absolutely dumbfounded. npower and Macmillan’s support has helped me take back control. I don’t have to worry any more about using electricity, putting on the washing machine or putting the heating on in winter. They gave me back a bit of dignity.”

Alison Rooks, Energy Advice Team Leader at Macmillan says:  “Rising energy needs aren’t something people automatically associate with having cancer. However, cancer patients going through chemotherapy feel the cold. It can be a bone numbing cold that they just can’t shake, regardless of the weather outside. Combine that with spending more time at home as well as reduced income from not being able to work and managing energy bills can soon become difficult for cancer patients.

“Npower’s Macmillan Fund provides vital support  to their customers undergoing cancer treatment, allowing them to focus on their health instead of their energy consumption and keep warm without the worry.”

Elizabeth Gardner, Head of Corporate Responsibility & Community at npower said: “Our partnership with Macmillan allows us to offer tailored support when no other help is available for people affected by cancer. Sadly many people are unaware of this support and rarely think to notify their energy supplier of their diagnosis. By working with Macmillan, we help people living with cancer at a time when they need it most – so they can focus on their health”.

If you’re living with cancer, are a cancer patients and struggling to pay your energy bills, visit the Macmillan Keepwarm campaign page for more information or call Macmillan Cancer Support on 0808 808 0000 Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.

 


 

Sources

i) Macmillan/YouGov online survey of 1,266 adults aged 18 and over in the UK with a previous cancer diagnosis. Fieldwork conducted between 22nd December 2015 and 5th January.  The figures have been weighted and are representative of the living with cancer population.  Results in this report are based on the 503 respondents who were diagnosed within the last two years. The average yearly bill increase amongst the 21% of respondents diagnosed in the last two years whose energy bills have increased as a result of their diagnosis and treatment was £177. This figure has been extrapolated onto the number of people diagnosed in the last two years. The numbers of people living with cancer diagnosed within the last two years that are estimated as those people alive in 2010 with a cancer diagnosis in the last two years – source: Macmillan Cancer Support and Public Health England’s National Cancer Intelligence Network Partnership Work-Plan. 2013.

Segmenting the cancer patients survivor population – the data was sourced and presented in collaboration with the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, Health Intelligence Division, Public Health Wales, Public Health Wales, the Scottish Cancer Registry and the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry.

ii) Calculated by number of calls to Energy Advice Team and number of people helped by Macmillan fuel grants (Jan to Aug 2015 and Jan to Aug 2016): 12,013 in 2015 and 13,857 in 2016

iii)  Winter is based on the four months November to February

iv) Calculated by: number of grants queries per month in 2016 Macmillan has received about energy costs –   on average 1,372 grants queries per month, meaning that next four months we could predict another 5,488 enquires combined with the average number of calls to the Energy Advice Team so far in 2016 236 new unique calls per month, meaning that over the next four months we could predict another 944 new unique calls. Bringing total to: 6,432 enquiries overall

v) In 2015 EAT received 2074 January to September calls and in 2016 January to September received 2766 calls

vi) Macmillan Cancer Support/Truth online survey of 955 adults in England, Scotland and Wales who have a cancer diagnosis. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3 – 21 September 2015.

vii) Macmillan Cancer Support/Truth online survey of 955 adults in England, Scotland and Wales who have a cancer diagnosis. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3 – 21 September 2015.

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