Age UK has warned that nearly 1.1 million older households could struggle to pay their energy bills by Spring, amid an escalating cost of living crisis. This is an additional 150,000 people on top of the current figure, an escalation that has occurred as a result of rising energy prices. Dennis Reed, Director of Silver Voices – a non-profit membership organisation for the over-sixties – told Express.co.uk that the rising prices are going to “hit people very hard”, leaving them forced to choose between “heating, eating and their TV licence”.
For many people, he said, failing to pay their bills puts them in a “life or death” situation.
Speaking about the winter, he said: “It’s going to hit people very hard.
“People can’t afford heating, eating and their TV licence – which they’ve now got to pay – and so they choose between those things.
“They’ve now got to juggle them depending on whether they’re hungry or whether they’re cold.
“Some of our members during cold weather don’t put their heating on during the day, so they wrap up in loads of jumpers.
“Sometimes they have a sleeping bag or a duvet wrapped around them downstairs in order to keep warm and that is no way, in a civilised society, that our older generations should have to live.
“It’s always been a big problem, but the energy crisis has taken this issue into a whole new dimension.
“If you’re on a state pension of £139 per week, and the increase is being raised by £139 that’s a whole week’s state pension gone. It just shows the sort of dimension that we’re talking about here.
She said: “More than twenty-five thousand people have told us how worried they are, and it is clear that as things stand, some fully expect to have to choose between cutting down on food or turning down their heating, once the cold weather sets in.
“Doing either is a potential risk to their health, especially if they are living with serious underlying health conditions like heart disease or COPD.
“We must do everything possible to safeguard the health and wellbeing of pensioners on low fixed incomes.
“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 safe and well.”
The crisis has been caused by surging gas and electricity prices, with regulator Ofgem last month increasing the energy price cap by 12 per cent.
The issue has been compounded by inflation across food, household goods and hospitality, with The Office for National Statistics (ONS) last month recording inflation rising to its highest since December 2011.
Mr Reed warned that the crisis is only going to get worse during the colder months and called on the government to take measures to protect pensioners this winter.
He said: “It’s a grim picture and it’s only going to get grimmer.
“We’d like the government to recognise that the energy crisis is really impacting on pensioners and it’s a life or death matter over the winter to be able to afford heating.
“So we would like them either to restore the triple lock or to make a significant one-off payment to all pensioners to recognise the current cost of living crisis.”