William Eichler 11 March 2022

Nearly a quarter of older households in England face ‘fuel stress’

Nearly a quarter of older households in England face ‘fuel stress’ image
Image: Solarisys/Shutterstock.com.

The increase in the cost of energy is set to impact one in four older households and four in five of the poorest, charity warns.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of older households in England will be in fuel stress when energy prices go up from 1 April, according to new analysis by Age UK. This is up from just over one in ten (12%) at present.

Fuel stress is defined as spending more than 10% of their after-tax income on energy bills to maintain an adequate standard of warmth.

In its new paper, published today, the charity also warned that this figure could rise even further with over a third (35%) of older households expected to be in fuel stress when prices go up again in October.

The new analysis also shows what the charity calls the ‘brutal impact’ of the price cap rise on the poorest 10% of older households.

Around half of this group (51%) are already living in fuel stress and this would increase to nine in 10 (91%) from next month without any intervention. But even if the proposed £150 council tax rebate reaches all those who need it, Age UK predicts this number will rise to 82% in April – possibly reaching 91% in October even with the extra £200 discount on energy bills promised this Autumn.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: ‘The current energy price crisis is a nightmare for all of us, but particularly for older people on low and modest incomes. Many struggle at the best of times to manage on their State Pension but the energy bill hikes we are now seeing pose a real threat to their standard of living. However frugal they are, as things stand they simply do not have enough money coming in to cope with such steep rises.

‘Unfortunately, the support package offered by the Chancellor last month was nowhere near enough, falling several hundred pounds a year short of the average energy price rises that are coming down the track. How is an older person or couple on a low fixed income supposed to make up the difference?

‘The Government has no answer and meanwhile, older people up and down the country are telling us that they are horrified by the letters they’re receiving from their energy companies, making it clear that their bills are set to rise beyond anything they’ve seen before.

‘Without a more generous package of support, targeted at those on low and modest incomes, there can be no doubt that hundreds of thousands more older people will be forced to cut back on heating, food, or other essentials, in the process putting their own health at risk. Some are saying that their anxiety about what is to come is already wearing them down.’

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