Urgent call to support elderly after survey reveals 94% concerned about energy bills next month

Urgent calls have been made to increase support for older people on low incomes after a survey found almost all its respondents were worried about paying bills next month.

Age Scotland, a leading charity representing the elderly, interviewed 331 over 50-year-olds to find out more about how the hike in energy costs will impact them.

The concerns come after energy regulator Ofgem last month announced a rise in the price cap which could see average annual bills climb by £693 from April.

Some 94% of participants said they were worried about their energy bills, with more than 200 saying they believed the rising costs will adversely affect their daily lives.

Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, described the survey findings as “wholly depressing to hear”.

Many respondents said they will have to make stark choices between heating their homes or cutting back on other essentials including food.

The charity has called on the Scottish, UK and local governments to take urgent action “to prevent tens of thousands more older people on the lowest incomes and those living with chronic health conditions being forced into fuel poverty when energy bills go up next month”.

Its key recommendations include more one-off payments to support older people on the lowest incomes, improving public awareness of sources of financial support and funding for energy-efficiency measures, and to consider implementing a price cap for homes whose primary heating source is not mains gas or electricity.

One of the interviewees, who was over 75, said: “I will need to consider what I will have to live without to pay them (bills).

“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 woman was asked how she would cope if energy bills rose by as much as 50%.

She said: “I wouldn’t. It’s a death sentence.”

Mr Sloan added: “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.

“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.”

He encouraged older people who are worried about their energy bills to call Age Scotland’s free helpline on 0800 1244 222 for advice and support.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are concerned that households are facing significant increases in energy bills and the cost of living.

“Powers relating to the energy markets remain reserved and Scottish ministers have repeatedly called for the UK Government to urgently take further action to support households – including a reduction in VAT and targeted support for those on low incomes.”

She pointed to the Scottish Government’s £150 cost-of-living payment which is said to reach 73% of households at this time of need, adding: “A further £10 million is being allocated to continue the Fuel Insecurity Fund into 2022-23, which supports people struggling with their energy bills.

“More than £160 million of funding is also being invested this year to help make Scotland’s homes and buildings warmer and more efficient, supporting efforts to tackle fuel poverty whilst helping householders manage their energy bills and reduce carbon emissions.

“This is as well as the support we provide to low-income households through other investment including social security benefits like our Scottish Child Payment.”

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