As Britain braces itself for an especially cold winter this year and energy prices reach record levels, new research from Saga amongst 8,500 over 50s shows that over half (58%) are worrying about the costs of heating their homes this winter and more than 7 million (35%) are already struggling with heating bills.
One in four older people have cut their spending to afford heating and Britain’s older generations are trying all they can to keep their heating bills down. Over half (53%) are wearing extra clothes while in the home - increasing to 64% amongst women. More than a quarter (26%) won't heat so many rooms, while one in ten (11%) will stop using parts of their house all together. 7% have said they will stay in bed longer to keep fuel bills as low as possible.
Saga is particularly concerned that more must be done to prevent unnecessary illness or deaths among the nations older generations. We are again supporting the Community Foundation Network’s Surviving Winter Campaign which has already raised £1 million since its launch last month. The exciting initiative begun as a way to enable pensioners to ‘recycle' some or all of their Winter Fuel Payment to help vulnerable people struggling with their energy bills. It has broadened into a national appeal for donations that will mean more people can stay warm and well this winter.
Winter Fuel Payments are an essential lifeline for many pensioners during the cold winter months and Saga strongly opposes any move to means-test this benefit as those who need the money may not receive it. The vast majority (92%) of all over 50s say this benefit is important to pensioners.
Dr. Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga, said:
"Every year, the winter freeze poses a very real problem for older people struggling to keep warm. Recent figures from ONS show that 24,000 pensioners died of cold last winter in the UK. While this is a welcome reduction from over 26,000 the previous year, this shocking statistic shows that much more needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable in society over the coldest months of the year.
“Saga is fully behind the Surviving Winter venture, helping channel donations into the right hands and helping older people keep warm and well. It need not only be pensioners who donate money to the campaign – anyone can help a vulnerable person with their heating bills.
“Nick Clegg yesterday argued that we have to take pensioner benefits such as Winter Fuel Payments away from wealthy pensioners. This may be a populist headline, but it is absolutely the wrong policy. Winter Fuel Payments are an essential lifeline for many pensioners during the cold winter months and this initiative facilitates a way for those who don't feel they need the money to recycle it to someone who is struggling with the cost of heating."
The ‘Surviving Winter’ campaign was a huge success last year - raising £2 million and helping over 20,000 people - thanks to the wonderful media support, endorsements from celebrities and the generous people who donated. This year, Stephen Fry, Dame Vera Lynn and David Jason have already lent their support and Saga hopes to build on last year's success. Every pound donated to this campaign is spent on those in need. Community Foundations across the country will be helping those at risk with energy bills, insulation or repairs and giving practical help, such as providing hot meals. People wishing to make a donation can go to www.survivingwinter.org.uk