CANCER patients in Ross-shire 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 revealed it has given more than £15,200 in financial grants to 42 cancer patients in Ross-shire.
Forty per cent of them were helped with their energy bills – the charity gave £4,260 in grants to help 17 people in the county meet their fuel costs.
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.
Macmillan gave one-off payments totalling £2,548,563 to 12,669 cancer patients in 2011 to help with fuel bills, compared to 2006 when £1,398,678 of grants were awarded to 7,369 patients by the charity.
Elspeth Atkinson, director of Macmillan Cancer Support for Scotland and Northern Ireland 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.
On average, seven in ten people under 55 experience their income being halved but 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 now 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.
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