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Warming

Nearly one in three people diagnosed with cancer say they feel the cold more, according to Macmillan Cancer Support. Turning up the heat, however, can have a drastic impact on energy bills, which can add yet more stress to an already stressful period in a person’s life.

Having identified this as an issue, 14 years ago Macmillan embarked on a partnership with energy company npower. But this is no ordinary partnership; it goes well beyond fundraising, though it started off that way in 2004 when npower staff selected to support Macmillan as their chosen charity. 

Since then, the two organisations have created a specialist energy advice team on the Macmillan support line and launched npower’s Macmillan fund, which offers ‘bespoke support to people living with cancer by capping energy bills and writing off debt’. To date, npower has contributed £10.5 million to support people living with cancer, helping more than 32,000 families with support such as emergency energy grants in their time of need.

The partnership may have just reached its teens, but the ethos behind it has been part of Macmillan since its establishment in 1911. Douglas Macmillan, a British civil servant, included sacks of coal as support for cancer sufferers so they could heat their homes. Joining with npower takes this idea and makes it relevant for the people it supports today.

Recent research by npower suggests that approximately 35,000 people living with cancer say the last time they felt warm was over a year ago. One in five see their yearly energy bill increase by almost £200 on average. ‘For many, this is an extra expense they cannot afford, especially when they are not working and their income is reduced,’ npower acknowledged.

 To combat this, the Energy Advice Team was another facet added to the partnership, introduced in 2014. Those who ring the Macmillan support line could now be directed to a specialist who would be able to help them manage their bills. The company is the first to provide a team of welfare specialists to offer such a service.

 There are four stories on npower’s dedicated Macmillan page, which tell the personal accounts of the people the partnership has helped over the years. Sandra’s story, told on video by Sandra herself, shares her experience of being diagnosed and worrying about how she might pay the bills.

 She couldn’t afford to heat her house whilst her daughter was at school, but after calling the Energy Advice Line, she was advised to reach out to the Macmillan Fund. ‘My energy bill is now less than half what is used to be,’ says Sandra in the video. ‘It was a great weight lifted off my shoulder.’

 The ideas for how the two organisations can work together haven’t stopped there. Last year in December, npower launched a campaign called Macmillan Light Sky. The campaign used holograms to send messages from donators into the sky. Over three days, people who donated £4 to the charity could see a message for their loved one displayed in the Light Sky above the landmarks of London. People whose message appeared also got a video of it doing so to share with friends and family.

 But fundraising is still a large part of the relationship between npower and Macmillan. Staff at npower have been keen to get involved themselves since the beginning and as of 2009, employee fundraising reached £1.5 million.

 Bungee-jumping, climbing mountains, cycling coast to coast - you name it, npower’s staff have done it. In the tenth year of the partnership, the company set ten fundraising challenges - ‘10 for 10’ - to celebrate. Staff raised £168,000, which npower then matched pound for pound. It did so again in 2017, when staff raised a further £126,000.

 The company has committed a further £1 million in 2018 to support its customers living with cancer through the Macmillan Fund, and yet more is planned for the future.

‘Our partnership continues to go from strength to strength,’ npower says. ‘Our kind hearted npower volunteers will be raising thousands for Macmillan through an extensive calendar of fundraising events – from a London Marathon Walk to a row across Scotland.’