Consumer: Fuel poverty is a cold hard fact for OAPs

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One in ten pensioners are staying in bed and turning the heating off as rising fuel costs bite in the winter . Aisha Iqbal reports.

One in 10 pensioners is being forced to stay in bed longer to keep warm as a result of rising energy bills, according to a major new poll.

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

More than 12,000 people over the age of 50, including almost 8,000 people who have retired, answered the survey for Saga.

A third said they had been forced to stop heating many rooms in their homes and 64 percent 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.

The figures come on the back of an earlier warning by charity Age UK that four old people in Leeds will die every day as a result of the cold this winter as the city’s elderly population struggles with the grim task of deciding whether to ‘eat or heat’.

This was after four of the UK’s so-called ‘big six’ energy suppliers announced plans to put up their prices.

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

An overwhelming majority, 84 per cent, expressed concern about the rising cost of fuel. Paul Green, director of communications at 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 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.”

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.

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.”

It has been reported this week that energy firm ScottishPower is planning to reduce prices by 3.3 per cent after coming under fire for failing to pass on savings from the Government’s green levy shake-up.

The move will reduce typical household gas and electricity dual fuel bills by around £40 to £1,235 for ScottishPower’s 2.2 million customers on variable price tariffs, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

It is understood ScottishPower will also promise to pass on a further £12 rebate to all customers for the Warm Home Discount, which the Government has said will be funded through general taxation instead of through levies on energy bills.

SSE and npower are expected to follow ScottishPower by passing on levy savings. They have already committed to cutting bills, but have yet to confirm how much or when the changes would take effect.

OAPs and a fuel crisis

Leeds is home to around 97,000 people aged between 60 and 75.

There are a further 55,000 Leeds residents over 75. The number of over-85s has risen by 15 per cent in the last 10 years.

Four in every 10 single pensioner households are classed as being in ‘fuel poverty’ as they spend more than 10 per cent of their income on energy.

One in every five households in Leeds can be classified as being in fuel poverty.

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