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Elderly will turn off heat to save cash

Resource type: News

Belfast Telegraph |

Almost 40% of people over 50 in Northern Ireland are planning to cut back on heating their homes because of growing financial strain, according to a new survey. Shock figures revealed that older people are so worried about how they will cope with the spike in the cost of living they are prepared to put their health on the line and put up with the cold. Commissioned by Age Sector Platform, Help the Aged and Age Concern NI as part of their Can’t Heat or Eat campaign, nearly two in five (39%) people aged 50 and over said that they are planning to reduce heating their homes. One in three (33%) are planning on cutting back on electricity. The results of the report by Age Sector Platform, a campaigning organisation for older people, have prompted the launch of a new BT Winter Warmth Hotline. Bill Carson, chairman of Age Sector Platform, said: These figures are very worrying. Older people who cut back on heating and electricity over the winter months will inevitably experience health problems, and this may result in increased excess winter deaths, due to cold. It seems that excess winter deaths have increased by around 60% in last five years, and with older people cutting back on heating, this will surely continue to rise. In fact, our research shows that nearly one in two (46%) older people are worried that the increased cost of living will have an adverse impact on their health during the winter months, but are still willing to cut back on essential heating and electricity because of their financial circumstances. The research, in addition to highlighting the worries of older people, also established what action they believed should be taken by Government in tackling the issue. The report showed that 40% of those surveyed stated that the Winter Fuel Payment for older people should be increased. Help the Aged spokesman Duane Farrell said: This finding is of no surprise. The current Winter Fuel Payment of £250 for those over 60 is totally inadequate when taking into account recent increases in energy prices. We calculate that the Winter Fuel Payment covered a third of average fuel prices when it was introduced; now it covers less than one fifth. It must be increased to at least £500 to be of help to older people in Northern Ireland. Anne O’Reilly, chief executive of Age Concern NI, explained how the age sector plans to support older people during this difficult period: This research has given us a real insight into how older people are planning to cope over the winter months. The launch of the hotline comes as a separate survey revealed more than a third of older people in the UK plan to live in one room of their home to save on fuel bills this winter. An estimated 2.5 million people resorted to the measure last year, but a study by the British Gas Help the Aged Partnership found the figure will increase to 4.5 million this winter. The poll also found one in four older people now stay in bed to keep warm compared with one in seven last year. Half of those surveyed said they would be forced to turn down their heating this winter if they cannot meet cost of heating their homes. The Can’t Heat or Eat campaign calls for a number of immediate actions that includes restoring the earnings link for the state pension now instead of 2012. It also calls for paying pension credit automatically for three months, setting up an emergency trust fund for those in fuel poverty and increasing the winter fuel payment to £500.

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Global Impact:

Northern Ireland


Age Concern, Help the Aged, senior citizens