Charity warns of rising fuel poverty and isolation among older people during the cold weather (08.01.10)
Prime Minister Gordon Brown‚ Yvette Cooper and Tessa Jowell today met older people at Age Concern Southwark and Lewisham’s ‘Stones End Day Centre’ to find out how they are faring during the cold weather. The Prime Minister urged people to check on their neighbours and make sure that elderly and vulnerable people have the support and supplies they need if they are unable to venture out.
Andrew Harrop‚ Head of Policy at Age Concern and Help the Aged‚ said:
“Icy roads and pavements are making many older people prisoners in their homes‚ frightened to venture out through fear of falling and leaving them feeling isolated and lonely. With older people being one of the groups most at risk during this cold snap‚ we are delighted Ministers made the time to call in on a group of pensioners in south London.
“We are concerned that prolonged cold weather and high energy bills could create the perfect storm for hard-up older people this winter‚ causing hardship‚ illness and isolation. Following the huge spike in excess winter deaths among older people last winter‚ there is a risk the number of pensioners suffering from cold related illnesses could increase further‚ contributing to a higher rate of excess winter deaths.
“Many older people will be worried about paying even higher energy bills to heat their homes. With 1 in 3 pensioner households already in fuel poverty‚ a long and cold winter could push this figure even higher. Cold weather and winter fuel payments have provided welcome extra cash to help lower income households pay their heating costs‚ but these one off payments haven’t kept pace with the steep increase to energy bills over the last few years and are only a sticking plaster to the entrenched problem of fuel poverty.
“We are urging people who are worried about heating their homes to ensure they are claiming all their benefits. If you are not claiming the relevant qualifying means-tested benefits such as Pension Credit which currently goes unclaimed by 1.7 million entitled pensioners‚ you won’t receive Cold Weather Payments of £25 currently being paid out. Please call our national helpline on 0800 00 99 66 to find out what benefits you may be eligible for.”