Isles cancer patients rely on charity handouts to keep warm

FREEZING cancer patients who can’t afford to heat their homes due to colossal fuel bills are turning to charity handouts to keep warm.

Leading cancer charity Macmillan Cancer Support today announced it is spending twice as much on helping patients to heat their homes than it was five years ago.

The new statistics show that more than £5,000 was given out to cancer patients in the Western Isles to help them meet the cost of home heating in 2010.

This is a 50 per cent rise compared to 2005 when almost £3,500 was awarded to people by the 100-year-old charity to help people with their fuel bills in Scotland.

Across Scotland, the new statistics show that almost £425,000 was given out to cancer patients to help them meet the cost of home heating in 2010.

This is almost double the amount spent in 2005 when £226,000 was awarded to people by the 100-year-old charity to help people with their fuel bills in Scotland.

Elspeth Atkinson, Macmillan Cancer Support’s director for Scotland, said: “Following the coldest winter in a century, patients will now be dreading their household fuel bills dropping through their letter boxes.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that, as well as attempting to cope with the consequences of a cancer diagnosis, patients are suffering the additional anxiety of how to make ends meet or are struggling through winter with no heating.

“When the charity was established 100 years ago, founder Douglas Macmillan comforted cancer patients by handing out sacks of coal so they could to heat their homes.

“It is shocking that a century on, people who are diagnosed with this devastating disease are still being forced to live in freezing homes and in fuel poverty.”

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, their income often drops because they are too ill to work. However, their bills rise because they spend more time at home and feel the chill more because of their treatment.

Despite only seven per cent of cancer patients in fuel poverty being on a social tariff, Westminster politicians recently rejected Macmillan’s calls for terminally ill cancer patients to automatically receive a rebate as part of the new Warm Homes Discount scheme.

The new mandatory social price support scheme, will obligate energy companies to provide a rebate to certain groups of vulnerable customers from April this year.

Macmillan is urging the Government to reconsider their decision and take action to ensure the scheme helps the thousands of vulnerable cancer patients throughout the UK who are at home freezing but too scared to put the heating on because of rising energy bills.

Macmillan is urging Scots to sign up to its online petition Freeze Out Fuel Poverty at www.infi-knit.org.uk