<p>An older woman holding energy bill in front of a radiator</p>

An older woman holding energy bill in front of a radiator

Almost half of over-60s are worried about heating their homes this winter

‘It’s a simple choice, heat or eat,’ one 75-year-old says

Saman Javed
Saturday 18 December 2021 17:14

Almost half of people over the age of 60 in the UK are worried they may not be able to afford to heat their homes this winter.

A poll conducted by Age UK found that 33 per cent of over-60s are worried about having enough money to pay their energy bills, while 32 per cent may have to reduce the amount of energy they use as they can’t afford it.

The charity is calling on the government to take urgent action after 45 per cent of survey respondents also said they feel worried about staying warm over the winter months.

To help over-60s heat their homes without falling into financial difficulty, Age UK has asked the government to provide a one-off £50 payment to help cover the bills of those who are already eligible for the Cold Weather Payment.

People receiving financial assistance, such as income support, universal credit or pension credit may receive the government’s cold weather payments, which consists of £25 for each period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March.

Age UK is also demanding that the government double its existing household support fund to £1bn to help heat the homes of vulnerable older people.

Its new report, Cost of Cold, found that 1 million older households are currently living in “fuel poverty” – either living in a house that has poor energy efficiency, or living below the poverty line if they spend the required amount to heat their homes.

Many over-60s have told the charity they are having to choose between eating or heating their homes.

Peter, 75, said: “It’s a simple choice, heat or eat. I already confine myself to one room and stay in bed as long as possible. If I cut down any further there won’t be any point in living.”

Cold temperatures are particularly dangerous for older people who suffer from respiratory diseases, arthritis or heart problems.

“As temperatures plummet this winter, millions of vulnerable older people are feeling trapped at home, too scared to go out for fear of catching Covid, and too scared to turn the heating on for fear of racking up a bill they can’t afford,” Caroline Abrahams, Age UK charity director, said.

“We cannot let a situation continue where people are so worried about rising bills that they either put their health at risk by not keeping their homes warm enough or feel forced to cut back on meals to make ends meet.

“No one should have to make the impossible choice between eating and putting their heating on.”

A government spokesperson told The Independent: “We remain committed to protecting the most vulnerable in society and our £500m Household Support Fund was introduced this year to help people with essential costs through the winter, including fuel bills.

“We are also supporting 11.4 million pensioners with Winter Fuel Payments and continue to help vulnerable and low-income households through the Warm Home Discount Scheme and Cold Weather Payments.”

Additional reporting by PA

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