Posted: Fri 9th Feb 2024

Energy crisis is still causing misery for the poorest pensioners, says Age UK

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Feb 9th, 2024

In a pressing call to action, Age UK has issued a stark warning about the hardships older people are facing amid another cold snap.

The charity’s latest findings are a wake-up call to the severity of the situation for those aged over 60 living on less than £20,000 a year without access to means-tested benefits.

The report underscores the grim reality for this vulnerable segment of the population.

According to the research, almost a third (29%) of older individuals in this demographic report their homes being too cold most or all of the time, a figure that starkly contrasts with 21% across all age groups over 60.

The financial strain of energy bills is a significant concern, with 49% worried about the impact on their health and 59% anxious about their ability to heat their homes.

The cost of living crisis has forced nearly half (47%) to worry about affording basic necessities such as food.

The data further reveals that many in this group are making difficult sacrifices, with 34% cutting back on food and groceries, 30% on transport and vehicle costs, and 18% on other household bills.

Additionally, 40% report feeling anxious about energy bills, highlighting the psychological toll alongside the financial one.

Alarmingly, UK government figures indicate that around 800,000 pensioners could benefit from Pension Credit yet remain unclaimed, missing out on vital support.

This oversight is particularly concerning as the poorest fifth of the population includes a significant number of households not receiving means-tested benefits, exacerbating their financial difficulties.

Despite some anticipated relief in energy prices, Age UK’s projections show that 1.9 million older households will still experience fuel poverty in 2024, emphasizing the urgency for targeted interventions.

Age UK’s report shares poignant testimonials from those affected, including a 73-year-old woman who described her winter as “miserable” due to the inability to afford heating, and William, 79, who despite battling terminal cancer, struggles to meet energy bills while trying to stay warm under blankets.

In light of the upcoming Spring Budget and General Election, Age UK is calling on political parties to prioritise improving living standards for the disadvantaged elderly, especially those not claiming means-tested benefits.

The charity advocates for a range of policy measures, including the introduction of a social tariff for energy costs, reinstating the Household Support Fund, maintaining the State Pension triple lock, increasing benefit uptake, and improving insulation and heating systems for those on lower incomes.

Caroline Abrahams CBE, Charity Director at Age UK, expressed concern over the prolonged effect of high energy prices on older people.

She said: “Over the past few years spiralling energy prices have made life extremely tough for older people who face hardship because of unavoidably high energy bills. Those on lower fixed incomes, and anyone living with disabilities or long-term health conditions has been hit particularly hard.

Caroline said: “Keeping warm at home is vital for a comfortable, happy, and healthy later life and something we thought we could all take for granted, but today it remains beyond the reach of millions of older people. Energy prices remain too high for many, and it seems there’s no prospect of a return to the much lower bills of a few years ago. The Government needs to face up to this reality, and to the distress and anxiety it is causing millions of older people, who now view each coming winter with dread.

“It’s not surprising that a clear majority still support Government intervention to help people with their essential costs. More than 6 in 10 over 65s (63%) want the Government to introduce an energy social tariff so that they can be confident of staying warm at home during the colder months, and Age UK agrees with them.”

She added: “We must not sleep walk into a situation in this country in which it is seen as ‘normal’ for an older person to have to shiver through the cold in their own home. If the Government brings in a funded social tariff for energy it can consign such misery to the past, and that’s what we think the Chancellor should do as part of his Spring Budget.”

Age UK is also encouraging those struggling to claim Pension Credit to ensure they receive the support they need this winter.

The charity’s Spread the Warmth Campaign aims to raise awareness and funds to assist vulnerable older people during these challenging times.

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