‘No point in living’ – Pensioners pushed into poverty due to energy bill hike
Budget 2021: Experts outline state pension changes
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Those over the state pension age are sounding the alarm that “there won’t be any point in living” unless more support is provided. In response to this ongoing problem, experts are calling on the Government to hike winter benefit schemes, such as the Cold Weather Payment, as a way of supporting low income households to survive the coming months. Age UK is one of the many organisations drawing awareness to how the energy bill hike is impacting the country’s most vulnerable demographics, most notably pensioners.
As part of its ‘The Cost of Cold’ campaign, the charity is warning that 1.1 million people could be adversely affected by rising bills unless drastic action is taken by the Government.
Some 6,500 people have written to their local MP to issue their concern about escalating prices and their fears for the months ahead.
Notably, Age UK believes rising inflation and soaring energy prices could leave many households “rationing their heating” in an ill-guided impact to save money.
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A 75-year old named Peter told the charity: “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.”
Another person named Geraldine, aged 77, explained: “I have arthritis which is worse when it is cold.
“I will have to keep my heating low now. Already I wear gloves on my hands and a heat pack inside my leggings to help my back.”
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director, emphasised that around 150,000 older households could fall into fuel poverty by early 2022 if more is not done to mitigate the crisis.
Specifically, the benefits expert called for a £50 grant to those who are able to receive a Cold Weather Payment, as well as a significant rise to the Household Support Fund.
Earlier this year, the Government announced £500million in funding to support the new Household Support Fund to assist councils in helping those who are most in need, especially during the winter months.
Furthermore, Ms Abrahams is pushing for the Government to make more of an effort to get more people on Pension Credit as a means of support.
According to the charity, around 920,000 pensioner households are missing out on Pension Credit payments of up to £1.6billion each year.
This represents an average of £32 a week, or over £1,600 a year, per each claimant which would help them cope with the cold weather.
The Age UK representative said: “We must do everything possible to safeguard the health and wellbeing of pensioners on low fixed incomes.
“The energy price cap offers valuable protection against prices going through the roof, and the Government should move quickly to enshrine it in law.
“But Ministers have to go further to give the poorest pensioners the confidence to keep their heating turned up high enough when temperatures are cold.
“Above all, we must ensure that turmoil in the wholesale energy market does not translate into tragedy for any older person this winter.
“In most years it would be hyperbole to suggest there was a risk of older people freezing to death in their own homes, but the risk cannot be completely discounted this year.
“That’s why we need Government action to ensure every older person comes through safely and well.”
Age UK is suggesting pensioners get in contact with its free national advice line before turning the heating off in order to check they are receiving all the financial support that is available to them, including Pension Credit and the Cold Weather Payment.
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