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Rising Energy Costs Will "Hasten The Death" Of Terminally Ill People, Government Warned

Marie Curie have warned rising energy costs could "exacerbate" the symptoms of people with a terminal illness

4 min read

Leading hospice charity Marie Curie has warned a rise in energy costs will push terminally ill people into fuel poverty during the winter months.

The warning follows an announcement from energy regulator Ofgem that the energy price cap would rise by 12% from October due to an increase in supplier costs.

The increase, estimated to impact around 15 million families, will mean energy bills could be hiked by as much as £139 per year for those on a default tariff and around £159 for those on pre-payment plans.

According to the charity, the rise could have significant health impacts on terminally ill people who often need to heat their homes to higher temperatures for longer, with some forced to choose between paying for food or spending money on energy bills.

Writing for The House, Mark Jackson, the group's public affairs manager, said the "bleak truth" was that some people would have their deaths "hastened" because of the change.

"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," he said.

"Living in a cold home can exacerbate the symptoms of terminal illnesses."

Jackson added that the risk of a cold home was a "sad reality" for many terminally ill people, saying that as many as 40% of homes at risk of fuel poverty include somebody living with a long-term illness or disability.

He added: "People living with terminal illness across the UK are forced into the impossible dilemma of turning their heating down and experiencing adverse health effects from their cold environment, or going without food or paying other bills to meet their energy costs."

Sian Taylor, who has terminal cancer, said she was already struggling to pay her bills during the summer months after her illness forced her to increase her energy use.

"As a side-effect of the chemotherapy, I suffer with neuropathy in my hands and feet," she said.

"It feels like really severe pins and needles and the colder I get the worse it becomes. 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."

Taylor said she was "genuinely worried" about the price hike and feared it would impact on her quality of life if she can't afford the extra costs.

She added: "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."

The warning came just days before the end of a consultation into the government's Warm Home Discount scheme which offers £150 support to those on low incomes to help with energy costs during winter.

Jackson said the review offered an "opportunity" for ministers to ensure that all terminally ill people are given automatic access to the support payment ahead of the price rise.

He added: "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."

Responding to the comments, a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: "This Government is committed to making sure affordable fuel is available to all – especially the most vulnerable – which is why we plan to extend and expand the Warm Home Discount to help an extra 780,000 pensioners and low-income families with their energy bills."

They added: "These reforms will ensure nobody goes cold in their own home. A total of 2.7 million people will receive support and the vast majority will receive the money automatically, without having to take any action to apply."

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