END OF LIFE CHARITY Marie Curie is warning that the recent energy price rises will plunge people with terminal illness into fuel poverty and, for many, this means they will die sooner.

The warning came as the UK Government’s consultation on changes to the Warm Home Discount scheme ended. The charity is calling for everyone living with a terminal illness and in need of financial support as a result of low income to get automatic access to the Warm Home Discount.

The charity says that as a terminally ill person’s health deteriorates, many need to heat their homes to higher temperatures for longer, further increasing their energy bills. This can force terminally ill people into having to spend less money on food, or other costs, to be able to heat their homes, or cutting back on their energy use and risking their health further.

Sian Taylor, from Surrey, has terminal cancer. Her energy bills have dramatically increased due to her illness and even during the summer months are a struggle to pay. “As a side-effect of the chemotherapy, I suffer with neuropathy in my hands and feet. It feels like really severe pins and needles and the colder I get the worse it becomes,” Sian said. “The extra cold makes it impossible. I start dropping things and I can’t walk. That’s why it’s so important I keep warm.

“I’m expecting to spend well over £200 on energy a month in the winter and when you’re living on benefits that doesn’t go far. I’m genuinely worried. With things as they are, I don’t know how we’ll cope and what my quality of life will be if we can’t afford to heat our home.”

Mark Jackson, Marie Curie Policy and Public Affairs Manager, said, “People are already dying in cold, damp homes and the bleak truth here is that deaths are being hastened because the cost of heating is too high. The knock-on effect of rising energy costs will make this more common.

“Living in a cold home can exacerbate the symptoms of terminal illnesses. For example, it can leave people with weakened immune systems, more vulnerable to infection or causes nerve damage. Less visibly, cold housing can have a severe impact on mental health and wellbeing.

“The UK Government’s consultation on improving support via the Warm Home Discount ends this week and with it Ministers have an opportunity to save thousands of families with a loved one who is dying from the added pain, stress and guilt of not being able to keep that person warm in their final days.”

Marie Curie’s own report into fuel poverty found that people with a long-term illness or disability account for 40 per cent of all poor households. It also showed that the average energy bill doubles when someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

A separate report from Marie Curie highlighted that the costs people face after being given a terminal diagnosis can be as much as £16,000 and, furthermore, 60 per cent of people with a terminal illness rely on benefits as their main source of income. As such, Marie Curie is calling for eligibility for the Warm Home Discount scheme to be extended to support people with a terminal illness.

* Read: The vicious cycle of fuel poverty and terminal illness here.

* Read: The cost of dying: the financial impact of terminal illness here.

* Source: Marie Curie