Millions could face fuel poverty this winter as a result of rising energy bills
It is estimated that as many as 150,000 pensioners could fall into fuel poverty this winter and around 1.1 million will struggle to pay their bills, according to Age UK. This comes as a result of the ongoing energy crisis which has caused a rise in energy bills.
Fuel poverty is a big problem in the UK and has quite possibly been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. This is because more and more people are finding themselves having to survive on a reduced income or are out of work completely.
What is fuel poverty in the UK?
Fuel poverty is defined as when a household needs to spend more than 10% of its total income on fuel use. This includes things we simply need to get by from day to day, including hot water, heating, lighting, and power for the use of appliances.
An adequately heated home in the UK has a temperature of 21°C in the living room and no less than 18°C in other occupied rooms. These temperatures tend to drop during the night.
Some parts of the UK are hit more by fuel poverty than others. For example, places in the South East had below average levels of fuel poverty whereas places such as London, the North West, and the West Midlands have the highest level of fuel poverty in the country.
What benefits are available to help with energy bills
Cutting the levels of fuel poverty has been something the government has been working on since 2001, when it became a legal obligation. Alongside the government, energy suppliers have also recognised their role in helping to alleviate fuel poverty.
Those who find themselves in fuel poverty, including pensioners, can claim up to two government schemes for support: the Warm Home Discount and the Cold Weather Payments. These payment schemes were put in place to help support households with low income pay for their energy bills and can especially be utilised by those who are claiming Pension Credit.
The Warm House Discount is one-off discount up to £140 on a person’s electricity bill for winter 2021 and 2022. The Cold Weather Payment, on the other hand, is a payment a person receives if the average temperate in their area is recorded as, or forecast to be, 0°C or below over 7 consecutive days. The scheme offers £25 for each 7-day period of cold weather between 1 November and 31 March.
However, despite the assistance of these schemes, they may fail to help those who need it the most as the majority are not claiming Pension Credit, Age UK has said.
The charity is pushing for the government to provide a £50 stand-alone payment to those eligible for the Cold Weather Payments as well as increase the Household Support Fund to £1 billion.
Charity Director at Age UK, Caroline Abrahams, said “There’s no doubt that media reports about rising energy bills are filling pensioners on low fixed incomes with absolute dread.
"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. The (hyperlink energy price cap) offers valuable protection against prices going through the roof and the government should move quickly to enshrine it in law.”
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