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One in 10 pensioners stays in bed to keep warm as fuel poverty fears grow

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 06, 2014

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One in 10 pensioners is being forced to stay in bed longer to keep warm as a result of rising fuel bills, according to a poll for the Press Association.

Meanwhile one in eight said they planned to stop using some parts of their homes in the cold weather to keep energy bills down.

More than 12,000 people over the age of 50, including almost 8,000 people who have retired, across Britain answered the survey for Saga, carried out for the Press Association.

A third of people said they had been forced to stop heating as many rooms in their homes and 64% of people said they were having to wear extra layers of clothing as a result of rising energy costs.

One in five was planning to cut back on other spending so they could afford to heat their homes.

Just over two-fifths who responded to the online poll said they would struggle more than in the past with energy bills this winter.

An overwhelming majority, 84%, expressed concern about the rising cost of fuel.

Recently the so-called Big Six firms that dominate the energy supply market all announced above-inflation price hikes.

Paul Green, director of communications at over 50s company Saga, said: “As we head into the cold winter months, spiralling fuel costs are striking fear in the hearts of some, but not all, pensioner households.

“For some, the fear could mean they won’t turn their heating on, and in so doing, risk their own health and welfare.

“Energy is essential so the Government needs to do more to cut back on consumer green levies, put pressure on energy companies for fairer pricing and to develop new fuel sources linked to lowering consumer bills.”

Jane Vass, head of public policy at charity Age UK, said: “High energy prices along with poorly insulated homes are some of the factors that cause cold homes - a major cause of excess winter deaths. Those living in the coldest homes are three times more likely to die a preventable death than those living in warmer ones.

“Long term we strongly believe that the only sustainable solution is investment to increase the energy efficiency of our housing stock so cold homes become a thing of the past.

“But there is action older people worried about rising prices can take now. Ofgem’s retail market review that has recently come into practice means that the energy market should be simpler to understand than before and allow people to find the right tariff for them. We would encourage anyone, whether they are struggling to pay their fuel bills or not, to shop around to ensure that they are receiving the best deal that they can.”

The rising cost of energy has featured high on the political agenda since Labour leader Ed Miliband’s pledge to freeze energy prices for 20 months if he wins the 2015 general election.

But Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg dismissed the Labour plan as a “con” which would result in price hikes before and after it was introduced.

Labour’s shadow minister for public health Luciana Berger said: “This survey shows the desperate lengths older people are going to in order to keep warm in David Cameron’s Britain.

“We have already seen a 40% spike in the number of people suffering from hypothermia on this Government’s watch. Ministers urgently need to act to help people struggling during the winter.

“Too many older and vulnerable people lose their lives every year due to living in homes that are too cold. Many more will be forced to choose between heating and eating because of this Tory-led Government’s failure to tackle the cost of living crisis and stand up to the big energy companies.

“That’s why Labour will freeze gas and electricity prices and reset our broken energy market.”

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokeswoman said: “The Government is tackling fuel poverty and helping vulnerable households through schemes like the Warm Home Discount which will help two million households this year, including more than one million low income pensioners who will receive £135 off their bill.

“There are ways in which householders can make their homes more energy efficient. In 2013, we saw over 300,000 energy efficiency measures installed in around 273,000 properties through Government’s Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation schemes to help insulate people’s homes.”

A spokesman for Energy UK, which represents the big six suppliers, said: “No one should have to resort to staying in bed longer or only using parts of their home to keep warm, your energy company wants to help, you just need to get in touch.

“Energy companies have offers, discounts, schemes and trust funds to help their most vulnerable customers and can advise on finding the best deal to suit your personal circumstances.

“Help is there, contact your supplier immediately or the free and confidential Home Heat Helpline on 0800 336699 for advice and information on the support you might be eligible for.”

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  • break  |  January 06 2014, 4:37PM

    Its nothing new to hear about pensioners having problems affording the necessites of life,so I can only imagine that nothing will be done now to help them,just as nothing has been done before.Our pensioners are usually far more decent people than those younger than them as they carry the old British spirit in them.Maybe thats what makes them easy targets,they'd rather put up with things as they are,as they were brought up being taught never to complain about anything.Everything about Britain now says 'greed'.

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  • willythefish  |  January 06 2014, 3:37PM

    @emurfit "No property should be let without loft insulation, double glazing and a properly functioning central heating system." All of those things - and a few more besides - are covered by the Housing Act 2004. There is a free service from Cornwall Council Environmental Health to enforce the requirement of this law. If a tenant asks the council they will do an assessment of the property and where there are faults the landlord will be required to submit proposals to rectify them with 15 days or face prosecution. If the tenancy is not a secure one, the landlord can give you notice to quit, of course, BUT even if they do this they may not re-let the property until the necessary repairs are carried out. If anyone wants to find out more they should contact the Private Sector Housing Team at Cornwall Council psh@cornwall.gov.uk or phone 0300 1234 151

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  • nickthompson  |  January 06 2014, 2:01PM

    Jon430 tells us to tackle the real problem. Well the real problem as I see it is this, we live in a country where governments OF ALL COLOURS it appears are quite happy for one section of our society to take six figure salaries, then at the end of the year given multi million pounds by way of bonuses, at the same time as 31,000 died from the cold ( The majority of these deaths were among pensioners - with over-75s accounting for 25,600 winter-related deaths in 2012/13) unable as they were to afford to heat their homes. This type of nonsense could be a thing of the past if only we could stop the GREED at the top, and managed somehow to find a system which was FAIRER to all.

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  • jon430  |  January 06 2014, 12:00PM

    "This survey shows what desperate measure are taken to keep warm" How desperate I must be to have on an extra layer of clothing in winter. I found also having a body warmer most useful with the long johns I bought for attending mid winter footy. Am I desperate or just sensible. Heating is full on in living room with bedroom at lower level with spare room at minimum heat. Desperate or sensible? As for getting up later on cold, dark winter mornings. would you do it if you could. This is one of the perks of being retired. Tackle the real problems, poor maintenance in some of the private sector and the cartel of the energy providers manipulating prices and last but not least the government of whatever hue not having a sensible energy policy and giving too much adherence to green and global warming theories.

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  • josdave  |  January 06 2014, 11:29AM

    Forget the old "It's their money so they are entitled to do what they will with it" with the homeless problem as bad as it is it is immoral, though not illegal, to own more than one home. You can only live in one place at a time and if you want to go away stay in an hotel. The private renting sector is out of control and now we have TV programmes advising people how to get the maximum rent. It is also possible, whatever anyone may say to the contrary, to have a clause in the contract whereby the buyer cannot already own a property.

    |   -2
  • DipStick  |  January 06 2014, 11:18AM

    "Illegal to own a second hoime". Well we can see what side of the political spectrum you favour. Umm. ".. The economy cannot afford the £20 billion a year HB bill - most of which goes straight into the pockets of private landlords as unearned income. ... ". I think you'll find that the 'heating bill' goes to the energy company and the landlord has no clue what it actually is. I agree that housing stock needs updating for "energy efficiency" but then so do new house builds so the problem is NOT the private rented sector. As for the local authority taking over private rented accomodation, don't make me laugh. They can't organise a party in a brewing facility on a Friday evening! DS

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  • nickthompson  |  January 06 2014, 11:11AM

    Five bosses at the company that runs British Gas shared a £16.4 million pay bonanza last year as millions of families faced record energy bills, it was revealed toda The six per cent rise in the salary, bonus and benefits for Centrica directors was condemned as "insensitive beyond belief" as households run up huge bills trying to keep warm in the coldest spring for 30 years. The company's 2012 accounts published today show Phil Bentley, outgoing managing director of British Gas, saw his pay jump from £2 million to £3 million. That included a £635,000 base salary, a matching cash bonus and £1.5 million from long-term incentive deals that matured last year but will pay out next month. Mr Bentley steps down from the board in June with share awards and a pension pot worth more than £10 million.

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  • nickthompson  |  January 06 2014, 11:06AM

    Here are a few who will not have to stay in bed to keep warm. -------------------------------------------------- Fury over bankers' pay has erupted again after the new boss of RBS was quietly handed an astonishing £1.5million in free shares. Ross McEwan, who only took over the State-backed bank in October, was given the stock as compensation for missing out on bonuses at his previous employer. The announcement was made after markets closed for the New Year holiday, and was seemingly designed to attract minimum publicity. Mr McEwan's payout emerged as Goldman Sachs revealed 'obscene' pay deals worth more than £3 million each to 115 of its senior bankers.

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  • emurfitt  |  January 06 2014, 10:52AM

    The most effective solution to our housing crisis would be to nationalize the private rented sector. Leave tenants where they are so no-one loses their home, and pass ownership to local authorities to run on a not for for profit basis. It should be illegal to own a second home. With rents reflecting maintenance only (no middle man) tenants would be able to afford to live and the Housing Benefit bill would be slashed. The economy cannot afford the £20 billion a year HB bill - most of which goes straight into the pockets of private landlords as unearned income. The entire rented sector needs cleaning up. In the meantime, vulnerable people will continue to die.

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  • emurfitt  |  January 06 2014, 10:43AM

    We urgently need a law to force private landlords to upgrade their substandard housing. No property should be let without loft insulation, double glazing and a properly functioning central heating system. It's simply not good enough to leave these measures to the tax payer whilst the property owners get an unearned, and grossly inflated, income at everyone else's expense. Private landlords are a parasite class we can no longer afford.

    |   2