New analysis from Saga shows that the UK’s 12.85 million pensioners spent a staggering £17.4 billion on electricity and fuel bills in 2012. The average yearly spend on fuel bills for the over 65s in the past year was £1355.90 which has more than doubled from £668.98 in 2005 - demonstrating the alarming rate at which energy prices have been increasing in recent years.
Many energy providers increased prices in late 2012* and further price increases are due this month with E.On increasing gas and electricity prices on 18th January. Saga’s analysis shows that the portion of income spent by over 50s on fuel has increased at a faster rate than for the rest of the population meaning that these price increases pose even more of a financial issue for this demographic.
Recent research amongst 8,500 people over 50 from Saga has shown 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.
Dr Ros Altmann, Director- General of Saga comments: “Energy prices are continuing to increase and we are still to feel the full effects of the latest price rises so energy costs are likely to put even more of a financial strain on households in 2013.
“While incomes have increased in the last seven years, they have not kept pace with the rate that energy and fuel costs have risen, meaning that people are spending more of their income on fuel. This is especially true for older people who are often on lump or fixed incomes or whose savings income has fallen.
“Inflation rates remain higher for the over-50s, reflecting in part the fact that utility prices are much higher. We know from our own research just how much of a burden energy prices are on the finances of those faced with fixed or dwindling incomes, especially older generations, of whom 29% are having to raid savings every month in order to make ends meet."
Saga is particularly concerned that more must be done to prevent unnecessary illness or deaths among the nations older generations in light of these huge increases in fuel costs. It is once again supporting the Community Foundation Network’s Surviving Winter Campaign which enables pensioners to ‘recycle' some or all of their Winter Fuel Payment (or for anyone to make a donation) to help vulnerable people struggling with their energy bills.
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 ‘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