Thousands of cancer sufferers facing Christmas Day alone

Thousands of people with cancer will feel “cold and lonely” this Christmas because they do not have enough money to celebrate or heat their homes, a charity has warned.

Friends of the Elderly - a lonely person at Christmas

In a bleak assessment from Macmillan Cancer Support, it is predicted that almost 170,000 people in the UK with cancer are unable to join in special family events such as Christmas due to a lack of funds.

Its survey of almost 1,000 people living with cancer also found nine per cent said they had to miss out on visiting family and friends because they could not afford it.

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Other research of more than 1,600 people who have been in touch with Macmillan found 28 per cent were unable to adequately heat their home in winter due to money worries.

The charity has previously found that four in five people with cancer are on average £570 a month worse off as a result of their diagnosis.

Reasons include being too ill to work plus extra costs, such as transport to hospital appointments, new clothes for a changing body shape and needing to heat the home. Cancer patients are more likely to feel the cold.

Macmillan said the Government must rethink its plan on welfare, which it said would take £30 a week away from people with cancer who are too ill to work.

Lynda Thomas, chief executive of the charity, said: “It’s heartbreaking that people who are going through cancer, which is likely to be one of the most difficult times of their life, are also having to wake up on Christmas day in the cold, alone, without being able to have Christmas dinner or buy presents for their loved ones. Having cancer is an isolating time and being cut off financially because of a diagnosis makes life even harder. People with cancer can lose hundreds of pounds each month because of their diagnosis. It is incomprehensible that the Government is pressing ahead with proposals to cut the benefits of people with cancer who have been medically assessed as unable to work by around £30 a week.”

Gemma Savory, 31, from the West Midlands, was diagnosed with bowel cancer last year. She said: “I was made redundant soon after my diagnosis and despite receiving benefits it just wasn’t enough to cover all the extra costs that come with cancer. I can’t imagine anyone surviving if their benefits are cut further.

“In the end I had no other option but to find work during my treatment instead of recovering from this devastating illness at home.

“I didn’t choose to have cancer and it doesn’t even seem fair that I have to worry about this as well as having undergone gruelling radiotherapy, chemotherapy and major surgery.

“Last Christmas was a real struggle but fortunately my wonderful colleagues helped me through it by selling Christmas cards which helped raised enough funds for me to celebrate Christmas day.”

A Department for Work and Pensions’ spokesman said: “The vast majority of those with cancer will not be affected by the changes and won’t be expected to look for work, and no one already claiming Employment and Support Allowance will be worse off under these reforms. People facing a cancer diagnosis will continue to get the support they need through the benefits system.”