Pensioners may be ‘put off’ heating their homes because of soaring energy prices, campaigners say as they call for Winter Fuel payments to be offered to more homes.
Age UK said there is a risk that older people may ‘decide not even to try to keep their homes adequately warm’, putting their health at risk due to fears about rising costs.
Separately, ministers have been urged to extend the Winter Fuel payments to 5.5million households at risk of poverty this year.
The payment ranges from £100 to £300 and is a one-off payment made each year to the homes of someone of pension credit age, regardless of their financial circumstances.
Pensioners may not heat their homes properly this winter over fears they cannot afford the soaring energy prices, campaigners have warned as energy prices spiral due to supply issues
But campaigners say the soaring energy prices should mean that the payment is extended to an additional 2.4million low-income households who may be forced to choose between eating hot food and heating their homes this winter.
Every year, the UK sees thousands of what the government calls ‘excess deaths’ due to cold weather, which can often make existing health conditions worse.
The prices of oil and gas have been sent spiralling due to global demand and supply chain issues and has sparked fears older people will not be able to afford to heat their homes sufficiently.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: ‘Older people typically need to have the heating on longer and at a higher temperature than younger age groups because they feel the cold more and are at greater risk of cold-related illnesses.
‘This means that at Age UK we are really concerned that the prospect of sky high energy bills will put some older people off even trying to keep their homes adequately warm this winter.
‘Energy bills are a big outlay and always a worry for many older people, but this year their level of anxiety is likely to be going through the roof, and for understandable reasons.
The prices of oil and gas have been sent spiralling due to global demand and supply chain issues and has sparked fears older people will not be able to afford to heat homes sufficiently
‘More than a million older households are already living in fuel poverty and surging energy prices seem certain to make these statistics considerably worse over the next few months.
‘No older person should feel they have no choice but to jeopardise their health because they can’t afford to keep warm at home.
‘There needs to be more help for older people to claim the extra financial support to which they are entitled, especially if they are on a low fixed income.’
Campaigners say that half a million homes were pushed into fuel poverty earlier this year after Ofgem lifted raised the energy price cap, from £1,138 to £1,277, affecting more than 15 million.
Fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA) predicted this year would be worse than usual for people in fuel poverty ‘rationing their heating’.
The charity is behind calls to extend the Winter Fuel payment to vulnerable and low-income households.
Campaigners say that half a million homes were pushed into fuel poverty earlier this year after Ofgem lifted raised the energy price cap, from £1,138 to £1,277, affecting more than 15 million
NEA chief executive Adam Scorer said: ‘Every year people in fuel poverty ration their heating. This year will be worse than usual.
‘Older people are physiologically more susceptible to the cold and make up the big majority of the average 10K winter deaths caused directly by cold homes.
‘We won’t measure this energy crisis just by financial hardship, we will do so by serious ill health and avoidable deaths.’
Energy regulator Ofgem said that tough rules are in place to ensure customers struggling with payments are treated fairly.
A spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We’re doing all we can to make sure consumers, especially people in vulnerable circumstances, don’t pay more than is absolutely necessary this winter and the Energy Price Cap Ofgem sets is doing just that – making sure only legitimate costs to supply energy feed into the rates customers pay.
‘Anyone struggling to pay their energy bills should get in touch with their supplier to access the help that’s available.
‘We put tough rules in place to ensure suppliers treat customers who are struggling with bills fairly, and welcome their commitment to reach out to those who most need help this winter.’
The Government said: ‘Protecting consumers is our top priority, which is why we introduced the Energy Price Cap.
This will protect millions of people from the sudden increases in global gas prices alongside numerous other targeted schemes available to support vulnerable and low-income households.
‘Winter Fuel Payments help pensioners with the cost of heating their homes over the winter, while Cold Weather Payments are targeted to provide extra support through particularly cold periods for households that have an elderly person, someone who is disabled or a child under five and are in receipt of eligible benefits.’