Three in five people over 60 with a household income of £20,000 or less have cut spending on heating or electricity in their homes to make ends meet, according to research.
As the cold weather sets in, 8.9 million, or 54 per cent, of people aged 60 and over are worried about being able to pay their energy bills this winter, Age UK said.
Not all government financial assistance is open to all pensioners, and eligibility criteria often apply, particularly for pension credit.
An unnamed 72-year-old man, who is not entitled to pension credit, told Age UK: “I don’t know how I’m going to cope.”
Tough times: Millions of over-60s are worried about being able to pay their energy bills this winter, Age UK said
‘I applied for a pension credit but was turned down and so am not eligible to receive cost of living payments this year.
‘The only extra money I received was a £200 discretionary payment from the council. I get housing benefit but I’m still £200 short because my rent has increased.’
Meanwhile, a 67-year-old woman told Age UK: ‘I’m constantly economising.
‘I’m wearing extra clothes but my hands feel tingly because I’m cold. I don’t drive and can’t travel easily due to my poor health, and now I can’t afford a taxi to get around or socialize. I try to compare prices but I can’t keep up with price changes at different stores. “Money decisions make everything more stressful.”
A 79-year-old man said: “All of this year’s state pension increase, plus my savings, is simply disappearing due to the huge range of price and cost increases for gas and electricity, council tax, insurance from home and the continued absolutely shameful increase in all foods of all kinds.
Are you older and anxious about bills?
Age UK is urging all older people struggling with bills, or friends and family who are worried about them, to contact their helpline on 0800 169 65 65.
It is open every day of the year between 8am and 7pm, or you can visit Age UK help page here.
Age UK staff will check that you receive everything you are entitled to, including pension credit.
Age UK also has a free, anonymous service. profit calculator which can provide you with an estimate of what you might be entitled to if you wish to know this information privately.
‘Absolutely everything has gone up in price.
“Millions of pensioners simply exist or live in fear about the future.”
The average household currently pays energy bills of £1,834 a year, plus sky-high costs on food, fuel and other essentials.
Age UK said 7.3 million people, equivalent to 44 per cent of those aged over 60, have already cut back on social and leisure activities amid higher bills for basics such as energy and food.
It said 2.6 million people over the age of 60 have reduced their phone, internet and water use in a bid to keep costs down.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “There is growing concern about how some older people will cope when the temperature drops and they need to turn up the heating.”
‘Our new statistics reflect what we are also hearing on Age UK’s advice line: many people on low and modest incomes are already worried about how they will be able to stay afloat when the winter bills arrive.
‘As always, our biggest concern is that they are so afraid of not being able to pay that they turn down the heating too much during the colder months, if they use it at all, putting their health at risk.
‘After two difficult years of this cruel cost-of-living crisis, some older people say they are not sure how they will get through a third, having exhausted their savings and cut corners as much as they could.
“That is why we are calling on the Chancellor to announce in his Autumn Statement more financial support for older people who really need it this winter, to give them the confidence and means to stay warm during the cold weather.”
He added: “Unfortunately, experts say energy prices will rise in January, fall in April and remain at high levels for the rest of 2024.
‘There is no certainty that bills will become manageable again in the near future and this will surely have a detrimental effect on older people’s ability to stay warm and healthy.
“In light of these forecasts, the Government must go further and do more to protect all older people whose low and modest incomes place them in a precarious situation this year and next.”
In October, Age UK said 4.2 million, or almost a third, of older people in the UK had cut back on spending on food and other groceries, as persistently high costs continue to hit living standards.
What financial aid is available?
The pension credit tops up weekly earnings up to a minimum of £201.05 for single people and £306.85 for couples.
Having savings can affect the amount people receive in pension credit, but an emergency fund of up to £10,000 will not be taken into account if your income is low and other eligibility criteria are met.
Age UK believes there are between 400,000 and 500,000 households in the UK who are eligible for pension credit and housing benefit or a council tax reduction, but who are not claiming pension credit.
Bill woes: Rising energy bills have hit many retirees hard this year
Perhaps an even greater concern is for people who remain low-income but simply do not meet the required eligibility criteria for the pension credit.
Age UK said: ‘Many will have meager incomes taking them just above the level for pension credit, perhaps because of a small private pension, or because the new full state pension is set just above the pension credit rate. basic pension.
“Not only will they miss out on additional weekly income and other discounts associated with claiming pension credit, they will also miss out on the cost of living payment of £300 this autumn and £299 in the spring of next year.”
Winter fuel payment
The winter fuel payment is worth £100 to £300 and is made to those born before September 25, 1957.
The amount you receive varies depending on factors such as when you were born and what benefits you claim.
Payments are typically made in November or December, and eligible households receive confirmation letters in October or November.
If you think you might be eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment but have not received a letter, You can submit your request by mail or by phone.
Cost of living payment
The £300 cost of living payment for pensioners will be paid to all households receiving winter fuel payments, in the same way as last year.
The Government said this week: ‘Pensioner households will also receive £300 which will be paid as a top-up to those who are eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment in November and December.
“Combined with the one-off disability cost of living payment earlier this year, some households will receive £1,350 in total.”
Warm home discount
The Warm Home discount is a payment of £150 towards the cost of energy.
It is intended for two groups, namely those who obtain the guarantee credit element of pension credit and those who receive certain means-tested benefits.
Households with a standard meter get £150 cashback on their bills, while those with prepaid meters get a voucher.
The money is not paid to you. This is a one-time discount that is applied to your electricity bill between the beginning of October 2023 and March 31, 2024.
Those who may be eligible will receive a letter in early January 2024.
If you do not receive a letter and believe you are eligible for the Warm Home Discount, please contact the Warm Home Discount Program by February 29, 2024.
Subsidies from energy companies
Customers struggling with high energy bills can get help from energy companies, including grants of up to £1,500, free electrical items and better insulation.
For example, British Gas has grants of up to £1,500, both for its own customers and those registered with any other energy company.
Other energy companies such as Octopus Energy and EDF also have their own plans.
But most will require successful applicants to be low-income or unable to pay energy bills, and may have other criteria as well.
Cash or vouchers from the Household Support Fund
Households struggling with the cost of living can apply for cash and vouchers from the Household Support Fund.
This is a pot of cash from the Government that councils give to the people of their region.
The scheme was completed for £842 million in April this year and will run until April 2024.
The plan is a postcode lottery, as each council decides how to distribute the money and to whom.
Some town councils distribute vouchers and others give out cash, for example.
Local authorities have paid out money and vouchers worth up to several hundred pounds per home.
Anyone can apply, but you may have to meet eligibility rules, such as being low income.
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