‘It’s horrible’: Mum of three with incurable breast cancer unable to put heating on as energy bills soar

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·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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Mum-of-three Emma Young is living with incurable stage four breast cancer and is among a growing number of Brits sacrificing basic essentials to get by. (Emma Young)

With energy bills soaring by 54% overnight for millions of Brits, many families are facing a struggle to pay the bills.

As the increase to Ofgem’s price cap hit bills, the Resolution Foundation think tank said the number of English households experiencing "fuel stress" – meaning they spend at least 10% of their total budgets on energy bills – was set to double overnight from 2.5 to five million.

Last week, Rishi Sunak announced a new package of measures in his Spring Statement to help households struggling with the costs of basic essentials like fuel.

However, the chancellor has been warned his mini-budget risks leaving 1.3 million Brits falling into absolute poverty in 2022-2023 – and did not go far enough to protect the most vulnerable.

Emma Young, a mum of three from Hertfordshire who is living with incurable stage four breast cancer, is among Brits having to make sacrifices on basic essentials to get by.

Read more: Cost of living crisis: 'I sold clothes and jewellery to pay my energy bills - there's nothing left to sell'

Despite suffering with cancer, which has spread to her bones and major organs, the 43-year-old says she doesn't put the heating on because she fears receiving a bill she can't afford.

"I mean, it's horrible, isn't it?" she told Yahoo News UK.

"There's people worse off than me, you know - there's elderly people that can't afford it, and they're sitting there freezing, and I think they're in a worse position than I am.

"But I don't think I'm alone. I don't think I'm alone in [having the heating off]. And, you know, it's just laughable, really - in this day and age that you can't afford to have your heating on."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak react at a statement on the economic update session, at the House of Commons in London, Britain March 23, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. IMAGE MUST NOT BE ALTERED.
The chancellor has been warned his mini-budget risks leaving 1.3 million Brits falling into absolute poverty in 2022-2023. (Reuters)

The average yearly energy bill is set to increase to around £1,900 from 1 April - adding an extra £693 to the average household's expenditure.

After the cap was announced last month, Sunak announced an "Energy Bill Rebate" scheme worth £350 shortly in a bid to soften the blow.

Emma criticised the scheme, describing the £200 rebate, which will be repaid over five years, as tantamount to a forced "loan".

Read more: 'We’ve got empty shelves': Food bank’s stark warning as donations dry up

"Even with this loan that they're going to give you for the gas and electric, you've got to pay it back anyway," she said.

"So, you know, I'm sure most people me included would rather not bother because you've then got to find the money to pay it back."

Emma says the Spring Statement left her feeling "gutted", and that she was hoping for "a little bit of empathy" from the government - but instead felt they were out of touch.

"I wasn't really surprised [by the Spring Statement], to be honest," she said.

"You just feel a bit gutted really, because, you know - it's not just me and my circumstances as the elderly you know, there's it's just a broad range.

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Emma says it currently feels like "the fun's been sucked out of life". (Emma Young)

"[The Spring Statement] didn't really take me by surprise because I don't think [the government] really give a monkey's."

She added: "It's been a tough couple of years... there's other options that they could have gone with."

On what her future looks like amid the cost-of-living crisis, Emma said it's uncertain.

"I'm not really fit enough to work because I get a lot of pain," said Emma. "I'm exhausted. Chemo takes it out of me."

Read more: 'My life changed overnight': What it's like living with cancer in a cost-of-living crisis

Lamenting the failure to boost benefits, and said it currently feels like "the fun's been sucked out of life".

"I don't know where it's going to go, I don't know where it's going to end," she said. "What more do they expect people to do, really? Because, wages haven't particularly gone up.

"My benefits went up about £4... I mean, you'd be lucky these days if that buys you a loaf of bread, a pint of milk, and a packet ham.

"It's just laughable."

Macmillan is doing whatever it takes to give people living with cancer the support they need.

Visit the charity’s website for energy advice and to find out more about the financial support available from Macmillan, or you can access peer support 24 hours a day via Macmillan’s online community.

Watch: Something has to be done to help people with cost of living crisis, says Gordon Brown

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