Energy crisis causing misery for poor pensioners

12th February 2024

Age UK is warning that older people living in a household with an income less than £20,000 per year and not in receipt of means tested benefits, have faced particularly steep challenges with managing through recent times.

New research for the Charity revealed that almost a third (29%) of over 60s in this group report that their home was too cold most or all the time – compared to 21% of all people aged 60+.

Almost half (49%) of them were worried about the impact of energy bills on their health, 59% reported they are worried about their ability to heat their home and 47% were worried about being able to afford wider essentials like food.

This group was also much more likely to report having to cut back on food/groceries (34%), transport and vehicle costs (30%), and other household bills (18%) and 40% reported feeling anxious about energy bills.

The research found within the poorest fifth of the population, around four in ten households do not receive means tested benefits and many people of all ages sit just above the threshold for receiving support, despite still facing significant financial strain. In 2022/23 and 2023/24 not being in receipt of means tested benefits also excluded people from the extra Cost of Living Payments provided by the Government. In total, this represented £1,550 of additional support over the two years which would have gone a long way towards addressing the anxiety and financial strain faced by those on lower incomes.

Energy prices have been a key driver of the cost of living crisis.  Age UK’s latest estimates show that even with prices expected to come down slightly this year there will still be 1.9 million older households in the UK living in fuel poverty across 2024, representing around one in six (16%) of all older households in the UK 1.3 million of these are older households in the lowest fifth of equivalised after-tax household income, representing over one-third (36%) of such older households.

Caroline Abrahams CBE, Charity Director at Age UK said “Over the past few years spiralling energy prices have made life extremely tough for older people who face hardship because of unavoidably high energy bills. Those on lower fixed incomes, and anyone living with disabilities or long-term health conditions has been hit particularly hard.

“Keeping warm at home is vital for a comfortable, happy, and healthy later life and something we thought we could all take for granted, but today it remains beyond the reach of millions of older people. Energy prices remain too high for many, and it seems there’s no prospect of a return to the much lower bills of a few years ago. The Government needs to face up to this reality, and to the distress and anxiety it is causing millions of older people, who now view each coming winter with dread.

“It’s not surprising that a clear majority still support Government intervention to help people with their essential costs. More than 6 in 10 over 65s (63%) want the Government to introduce an energy social tariff so that they can be confident of staying warm at home during the colder months, and Age UK agrees with them.

“We must not sleep walk into a situation in this country in which it is seen as ‘normal’ for an older person to have to shiver through the cold in their own home. If the Government brings in a funded social tariff for energy it can consign such misery to the past, and that’s what we think the Chancellor should do as part of his Spring Budget.”