Pensioners face dire winter emergency – Government MUST help. ‘Tens of thousands will die’
Martin Lewis explains how to reduce your energy bills
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It’s tough being a pensioner in the UK but this winter is set to be harder than ever. If campaigners are correct, huge numbers will die from cold and hunger and the Government can’t just stand by and watch. Yet Boris Johnson has rejected calls to cut VAT on fuel, saying it would help people “who don’t need the support”. So what about those who do?
Later life campaigner Baroness Ros Altmann, a former pensions minister, says pensioners face a perfect storm this winter as fuel prices and inflation soar but the State Pension fails to keep up.
Excess winter deaths among the elderly average tens of thousands a year in normal times, often due to respiratory illnesses caused by the colder weather.
This year the death toll will be much higher, especially as older people living in freezing cold homes are even more susceptible to Covid.
Altmann has issued an impassioned plea for the Government to draw up an emergency manifesto to address the crisis. So far, there has been no reply.
More than two million pensioners were in poverty even before the pandemic, with more than a million in extreme fuel poverty.
It’s almost impossible to imagine the hardship they face now.
The energy price cap was hiked by £139 to £1,277 in October but could rise by an incredible £600 from April 1, taking it to £1,877 a year.
Those taking out new fixed-rate gas and electricity contracts are already paying more than £2,000.
Millions were struggling to afford their bills even before these disastrous hikes kicked in.
How they will pay now I cannot begin to imagine.
The Government does offer extra help for pensioners who are struggling with the heating bills, but as Altmann points out, Winter Fuel Payments are actually lower than they were back in 2009.
Cold Weather Payments of £25 a week have not risen since 2008. The Warm Homes Discount of £140 a year has not increased for more than 10 years.
The underlying problem is that the State Pension is so poor. “The lowest in the developed world”, according to Altmann.
April’s meagre 3.1 percent increase will further shrink its spending power as inflation tops six percent.
Pensioners can claim benefits on top, but the system is so complex that many fail to claim everything they are due.
Incredibly, more than a million fail to claim Pension Credit, which tops up the incomes of the poorest and acts as a gateway to other benefits such as council tax reduction, free TV licences for the over 75s and yes, heating support.
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Altmann is calling on the Government to launch an “urgent” national campaign to increase Pension Credit take-up.
She says this should be part of a wider national emergency plan to help the elderly survive the hard times ahead.
This includes offering Pension Credit to all over 60s as well as those over State Pension age, and increasing heating benefits.
Altmann also wants the Department for Work & Pensions to urgently reimburse those who have been underpaid State Pension, particularly women and those over 80.
We can all do our bit by checking elderly family, friends and neighbours are warm and well fed.
But the Government needs to do a lot more. Otherwise next few months could be a living hell for too many. Some will not survive.
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