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Charity Age Scotland appeals for urgent action to prevent more older people being forced into fuel poverty


By Val Sweeney

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A survey by Age Scotland found 94 per cent of respondents were worried about paying their energy bills from next month.
A survey by Age Scotland found 94 per cent of respondents were worried about paying their energy bills from next month.

Age Scotland is calling for urgent action to support older people on low incomes after a survey conducted by the charity found 94 per cent of respondents were worried about paying their energy bills from next month.

Many of those who took part in the survey said they will have to make stark choices between heating their homes or cutting back on other essentials, including food.

Age Scotland is now calling on the Scottish, UK and local governments to take urgent action to prevent tens of thousands more older people and those living with chronic health conditions being forced into fuel poverty.

The Inverness Courier's End The Chill ongoing campaign has also been highlighting the issues of fuel poverty with rates in the Highland among the worst in Scotland.

Among the respondents in the Age Scotland survey was Helen, who is aged over 75.

"I will need to consider what I will have to live without to pay them," she said.

"I will need to be more careful with buying food, rather than treating myself from time to time.

"Rising energy bills will result in life being worse for many older people and they are going to be even lonelier because they cannot afford to live comfortably."

Another respondent, Mary, was asked how she would cope if energy bills rose by as much as 50 per cent.

She replied: "I wouldn’t. It’s a death sentence."

The key recommendations the charity wants addressed include:

* Further one-off payments to support older people on the lowest incomes, including £500 to those in receipt of the Cold Weather Payment

* Improve public awareness of sources of financial support and funding for energy-efficiency measures

* Implement a national programme to target the least energy-efficient homes for support

* Raise awareness of benefits available and how to claim them

* Consider implementing a price cap for homes whose primary heating source isn’t mains gas or electricity

Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: "It is wholly depressing to hear that 94 per cent of older people who took part in our survey are worried about rising energy bills and fear how the extraordinary surge in cost from next month will impact them.

"The stories and concerns of hundreds of older people are laid bare in our new report which provides a stark picture of what lies ahead.

"For the 218,000 older households in Scotland living in fuel poverty and those on low incomes in particular, these higher energy bills will mean cutting back on other essentials including food which is a completely unacceptable situation for any older person to face.

"Heating your home isn’t a luxury, it is an essential resource which supports our health and wellbeing.

"Older people should not end up in debt just to be able to keep their house warm and lights on, but that is the reality greater numbers of people will now face.

"Further and immediate action is needed to mitigate next month’s energy cost rise.

"We’re calling on the Scottish, UK and local governments to intervene to help older people on lower incomes to stay warm and pay their energy bills.

"They should be proactive in exploring what more they can do to help, and not just rely on what has been done in the past or what is most straightforward to deliver."

Age Scotland is also encouraging older people who are worried about their energy bills to call its free helpline on 0800 12 44 222 for advice, information and support, or to get a free copy of the Warm and Well information guide.

Details on free online energy workshops to learn more about home energy use and saving money can be found at

www.age.scot/energyworkshops.


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