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Cost of living crisis “pushing terminally ill to breaking point,” says charity

The cost-of-living crisis is pushing people affected by terminal illness to “breaking point,” says the end-of-life charity Marie Curie.

Calls to its support line from people worried about their finances have increased by over a third since last year, with one in five calls now about the cost-of-living crisis.

Nearly 80% of callers surveyed were concerned about whether they or their loved one would be able to keep their home warm this winter.

And 61% thought they or their loved one would struggle to pay their energy bills.

Nearly two-thirds of callers (65.9%) said they or their terminally ill friend or family member relies on their State Pension to get by.

Marie Curie is calling on the government to give dying people of working age access to their State Pension to prevent them falling below the poverty line.

Victor, 56, from Woking, had no safety net to fall back on after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and subsequently lost his job and became homeless:

“I used to have a full-time job, a BMW, and a decent salary. Then in May 2019 I was diagnosed with stage four metastatic prostate cancer, and everything changed.

“I was a national sales manager for a multi-billion-pound logistics company but when Covid hit I was the first person to be made redundant. I didn’t think that they would be allowed to do that to me given that I’m terminally ill.

“I ended up homeless.

“When I stop and think about it, there’s so much I want to do in my life and there are things I want to see. I want to be around for my children.

“I have my ups and downs. I used to not eat. Now I’ve got about 50p in the bank.

“I never imagined that I would end up in this position.”

Marie Curie also reveals today a new survey, conducted by Opinium, that shows the majority of people (61%) in the UK would struggle to pay their energy bills if they were diagnosed with a terminal illness and unable to work.

One in six respondents said they would have no financial safety net other than benefits (16%).

The survey also revealed that 93% of people who know somebody that is terminally ill are concerned about how they will keep warm this winter.

Terminally ill people often have energy bills thousands of pounds higher than the average household due to the medical need to stay warm and power medical equipment.

Marie Curie’s Dying in Poverty campaign is calling on the UK government to take urgent, targeted action to protect vulnerable families affected by terminal illness from the cost-of-living crisis.

It says terminally ill people of working age should be able to access their State Pension. Additionally, the charity says dying people need targeted help with soaring energy bills and support for terminally ill parents with childcare costs.

The vast majority (72%) of UK adults surveyed believe that the UK government has a responsibility to protect those who are terminally ill from falling into poverty, with similar proportions giving their backing to each of the charity’s proposals.

The charity’s campaign highlights the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on people affected by terminal illness. Research found that 90,000 people die in poverty each year in the UK.

Mark Jackson, Senior Policy & Research Manager at Marie Curie, said: “The cost-of-living crisis is pushing people affected by terminal illness to breaking point. Terminal illness has no respect for people’s bank balance, personal circumstances, or age. It is those in working age who are at particular risk of falling into poverty if they become terminally ill.

“We’ve written to ministers ahead of the Autumn Statement urging them to listen to the huge majority of the public who back our campaign to give dying people access to their State Pension, as well as support with energy bills and childcare.

“Our survey clearly shows that the public back these measures and the figures from our support line underline how urgently this support is needed. We urge the government to take these measures. If they don’t, we fear many terminally ill people could freeze this winter.”