Older people 'forced to cut down energy usage'

Older people are being forced to cut down on their energy usage as they face soaring fuel bills, a report warned today.

Pensioners have seen their gas bills jump by 55 per cent in the two years to April 2007, while electricity bills have risen by 36 per cent, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.



As a result, the amount of money older households spend on fuel has increased by about 22 per cent during the same period, despite them cutting down their consumption by 10 per cent.



Age Concern and Help the Aged, which commissioned the report, warned that further price rises seen during 2008 would have increased the pressure on older people, forcing many of them to turn down the heating or cut spending in other areas in order to afford their energy bills.



The group said some pensioners were even resorting to staying in bed in a bid to reduce the amount they spent on heating.



The research also uncovered very different lifestyles being led by the poorest and richest pensioners.



In 2007, the poorest fifth of pensioners spent nearly 40 per cent of their budget after housing costs on food and fuel, while the richest fifth spent just under 20 per cent of their income on these things.



Instead the single biggest area of expenditure for the richest group of pensioners was holidays, at 12.5 per cent, while the poorest fifth spent only 3.3 per cent of their budget on trips away, nearly half the 6.5 per cent and 6.2 per cent of their income that was devoted electricity and meat respectively.



Pensioners have also seen an increasingly large proportion of their budget taken up by local taxes, such as council tax, with this soaring by 84 per cent between 1995 and 2007 to account for 7 per cent of total expenditure, compared with 4 per cent for non-retired households.



Older people are continuing to help out younger family members, with cash payments, presents to family and friends and charitable donations the 10th largest area of expenditure for the over 80s.



Andrew Harrop, head of public policy at Age Concern and Help the Aged, said: "What's most clear from this important new research is the significant differences in living standards between older people at different ends of the income scale.



"Shockingly, the report finds that while poorer pensioners are spending more of their available income on energy, they are - at the same time - reducing the amount of energy they buy.



"Not only does this demonstrate the problem of soaring energy costs in recent times, but is a warning to policy makers and others that vulnerable older people could be putting their health at risk in winter just to cut costs."



Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman Steve Webb said: "Pensioners have been hit by soaring fuel bills which have taken a growing chunk out of their meagre state pensions.



"Once again, we see the woeful inadequacy of the basic state pension, one of the worst in Europe.



"Forcing pensioners to rely on complex and poorly understood means-tested benefits is simply not the answer to pensioner poverty. It is time that the state pension was raised to a decent level.



"As a first step, the Government should restore the earnings link at once."



Energy and Climate Change Minister David Kidney said: "Pensioners must not feel they can't heat their homes this winter.



"Cuts in the wholesale costs of energy must be passed on by energy suppliers to consumers, and that's particularly important for those on lower incomes.



"We're giving extra help to those households through a range of measures including Warm Front grants for insulation and heating improvements, winter fuel payments to all pensioners this winter, and we will create mandatory social price support for the poorest at the earliest opportunity."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Direct Mail Machine Operative

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Day In a Page

Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa corruption: The officials are caught in the web of US legal imperialism - where double standards don't get in the way

Caught in the web of legal imperialism

The Fifa officials ensnared by America's extraterritorial authority are only the latest examples of this fearsome power, says Rupert Cornwell
Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert