Struggling cancer patients turn to loan sharks to pay household bills

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High prices are forcing tens of thousands of vulnerable cancer patients to use loan sharks while some fear eviction, a charity has said. Macmillan Cancer Support said nearly a third were risking their lives by cutting back on meals, ­heating and other essentials as they struggled to pay for basic living costs.

The charity said the Government must do more to help as financial pressures were taking a “devastating toll”.

And with energy bills bounding upwards, Macmillan’s research showed some cancer ­sufferers were getting loans from ­unlicensed lenders, while others risked being forced out of their homes.

It also suggests tens of thousands of ­people going through or recovering from cancer treatment (16 percent) have had to sell possessions or ­borrow just to get by.

Rachel Kirby-Rider, chief executive of charity Young Lives vs Cancer, said many cancer patients and their ­families have “hit financial rock bottom”.

She said: “They are having to make ­impossible decisions such as keeping their child or family member with cancer warm when they’re going through treatment or putting food on the table.

“It’s bad enough for people dealing with the unimaginable stress of having cancer, without the pressure of how they’ll afford the essentials. Our social workers say they’ve never seen it so tough.

“This isn’t right and the Government needs to do more to support people with cancer and their families facing rising costs.”

The stark data also found one in five of all those with cancer – just over half a million people – said they did not feel their financial situation was strong enough to ride out the cost-of-living crisis.

Some recovering from chemotherapy or radiotherapy are sleeping in cold bedrooms to keep energy bills down, while ­others are washing their clothes and bedding less ­frequently or skipping meals.

The development is alarming because nutrition, warmth and hygiene are vital for those with the disease, experts say.

National Energy Action director of policy Peter Smith said: “People with cancer often pay a large energy bill premium because they need to spend longer at home or need to keep rooms at higher temperatures due to their ­treatment needs.

“This often coincides with a significant loss of earnings from not being able to work.

“It’s clear from these shocking ­findings, many people can’t cope.

“Despite lower wholesale prices, energy bills are due to soar again in April yet many ­households will no longer get as much support.

“The Government has the resources to do more.”

Macmillan has seen a significant jump (22 percent) in calls about money issues taken by its support line so far this year.

According to the charity, four in five people with cancer experience a hit to their finances, which for those affected reaches almost £900 a month on average in addition to usual outgoings.

And many people are facing unacceptably long delays for financial support. A quarter of those with cancer on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are waiting more than 16 weeks to get their first instalment, leaving far too many people falling into debt.

Maggie’s cancer charity’s chief executive, Dame Laura Lee, said: “People with cancer are being disproportionately affected by the cost-of-living crisis and it’s deeply shocking.”

Macmillan is urging those patients to apply for its grants. Last year, it gave more than £19million to more than 48,000 people with cancer across the ­country – this is almost £7million more than in the ­equivalent period the previous year.

Additionally, it has committed £30million over the next three years to fund welfare benefits services across UK communities.

Macmillan’s Richard Pugh said: “Every day we’re hearing from people living with cancer who are struggling to get by and pay for the very basics.

“It’s heartbreaking that people are now being left with no other choice than to sell their personal possessions or take out loans pushing them into debt. It’s crucial that anyone who is feeling the ­pressure knows we are here for them.

“We have trained teams on our Support Line who can offer confidential advice or simply provide a listening ear.”

Cancer Research UK’s head information nurse Martin Ledwick said: “This data from Macmillan is deeply concerning.

“Having cancer can mean facing many hidden extra living expenses, whether that is travelling to hospital, taking time out from work, or keeping the house warm during treatment. “It is worrying that those affected by ­cancer are experiencing such difficult financial challenges and we encourage people to seek support.”

The Government said: “We’re committed to getting people the support they’re entitled to as quickly as possible, and we will backdate awards to ensure no one misses out.” 

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