Case Studies

Macmillan Better at Home

The project

The Better at Home programme is a partnership across England and Wales between NEA, Warm Zones and Macmillan Cancer Support. It is the first project in the UK to specifically target assistance for people living with cancer and who may be vulnerable to fuel poverty. These people are some of the most vulnerable people imaginable, living with a life-threatening or terminal illness and often undergoing incredibly stressful and debilitating treatments.

Cancer can have a devastating impact on families, upending peoples’ incomes and drastically increasing their expenditure. For many, it could push a family previously out of fuel poverty into it, or at risk of going into it. When facing cancer, financial worries should be the very last concern of every family and individual struggling through the hardest time of their lives. For all too many people, however, the reality is that cancer creates an unconscionable amount of additional pressure on them at a time when they do not have the emotional or physical energy to cope with it.

Offering people help with dealing with their bills and ensuring they are avoiding fuel poverty can go a long way to alleviate these worries and allow them to focus on recovery. Additionally, a properly warm home and access to as much electricity and hot water as needed are fundamental to physical and mental health, especially at a time when many people are vulnerable with such a devastating illness as cancer. Ensuring that people are not in fuel poverty or in danger of going into it helps not only relieve financial pressure but also aids recovery and increases the chance of getting better, sooner.

The delivery

Warm Zones’ role in the Better at Home project was to provide the heating scheme to create warmer and more affordable to heat homes. The Warm Zones Energy Efficiency Grant supports the provision of energy efficiency and heating measures to lower income householders living with cancer (or other eligible health conditions). The grants were available for up to 100% of the installed costs for heating and energy efficiency measures in homes, including central heating system boiler repair or replacement, alongside any associated works for the rest of the central heating system; electric space heating repair or replacement; and a variety of home insulation, including cavity wall and loft insulation. In 2017-18 404 households received measures, bringing the total to 474 since the programme started in 2016.

NEA played an important role in the project raising awareness and training staff about energy issues so that they could support householders and engage directly with communities. They also established the Macmillan & NEA Fuel Fund, enabling Macmillan Cancer Support to provide top-up fuel grants to households in need across England and Wales. The Fund makes sure that people suffering from the financial impact of cancer brought on by higher energy costs are given the support they need. We provide them with a small grant to help pay their energy costs after receiving a cancer diagnosis whilst they establish other support. In 2017-18 3,242 people received a grant, bringing the total to 3,535 since the programme started in 2016.

Project stories

Mrs C is a 55-year-old living in a 3-bedroom mid-terrace house which she owns herself. Following surgery for bowel cancer, Mrs C was discharged from the hospital with an open wound to a home in which she had no central heating or hot water to keep the wound clean. She was heating only the front room with a gas fire. Mrs C was referred as a priority to the Macmillan team and, within 10 days, a new combi boiler and thermostatic radiator valves were installed in her home.

Mr J is a 72-year-old owner-occupier living in a 3-bedroom bungalow. Mr J has been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer and also has significant mobility issues. Mr J’s 10-year-old boiler had intermittent faults and was unreliable, sometimes leaving him cold and at risk of declining health as a result. Mr J would spend days at a time in bed due to the boiler not always working and the cold affected his mobility. Mr J contacted Macmillan, who passed the referral to Warm Zones who replaced Mr J’s problematic boiler with a new boiler. Mr J said: “Thank you for the work you carried out. Great job and couldn’t recommend highly enough. Thanks again. This has been life-changing.”

"We found the partnership with Warm Zones to be of great benefit for our customers (People living with Cancer). To be able to refer our customers, safe in the knowledge that, having identified that they met the qualifying criteria, we could refer over for an assessment of need for a new or improved boiler, insulation and heating upgrades. Responses were generally very quick and this was great for our customers as they are especially vulnerable to the cold and many were in the position where their household income had dropped, due to being unable to work. If we had queries about the scheme, they were picked up and responded immediately." Alison Rooks, Macmillan Cancer support The scheme enabled us to open up the support we were able to offer and meant we could check for boiler problems as a matter of routine.” Alison Rooks, Energy Team Leader, Macmillan Cancer Support

"We found the partnership with Warm Zones to be of great benefit for our customers (People living with Cancer). To be able to refer our customers, safe in the knowledge that, having identified that they met the qualifying criteria, we could refer over for an assessment of need for a new or improved boiler, insulation and heating upgrades. Responses were generally very quick and this was great for our customers as they are especially vulnerable to the cold and many were in the position where their household income had dropped, due to being unable to work. If we had queries about the scheme, they were picked up and responded immediately." Alison Rooks, Macmillan Cancer support The scheme enabled us to open up the support we were able to offer and meant we could check for boiler problems as a matter of routine.” Alison Rooks, Energy Team Leader, Macmillan Cancer Support

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