40% of over 50s in fuel poverty, research reveals
New research from Age Scotland has highlighted that 4 in 10 (42%) of over 50s believed that they were living in fuel poverty this summer.
This is a significant increase as before this energy crisis the Scottish Government had estimated that 27% of older households (over 65) were living in fuel poverty, the largest group in Scotland to be in this position.
The survey findings are deeply concerning as respondents have said they have been pushed to cut costs wherever possible, heating only one room, eating cold food to avoid cooking, delaying retirement, and even saying “I am now considering having to sell my home to downsize and reduce costs”.
The charity’s national survey, working in partnership with SGN and carried out over the summer, also reveals a dramatic fall in the proportion of older households able to heat their home to a comfortable level, only 46% in 2022 from 88% in 2018, as well as an almost 30% increase in the number of people concerned about paying their energy bill.
Age Scotland believes the extensive survey findings, which comprise views from over 1,000 over 50s in Scotland, highlight that further measures are needed to mitigate the impact of the cost-of-living crisis this winter.
Age Scotland’s chief executive, Brian Sloan, said: “This new research paints an incredibly worrying picture of how older people are coping with rising energy costs. The fact so many older people were already struggling when this research was conducted, during the warmest and brightest months of the year, should set alarm bells ringing.
“The devastating impact of rising costs has been apparent for months, but will truly hit home as the weather turns colder and the latest Ofgem price cap increase comes into effect. We urgently need an even greater package of targeted support from governments to help people survive the worst of this crisis.
“Failing to go further than the future Energy Price Guarantee puts huge numbers of older people and those who are vulnerable at further risk from surging fuel poverty levels, ill health, financial insecurity, and falling into unmanageable debt.
“Ultimately, we urgently need reassurances that older people will not be left to face this cost-of-living crisis alone.”
Maureen McIntosh, head of customer experience from SGN, said: “As the cost-of-living increases, now more than ever it’s really important for us to understand the struggles that older people in Scotland are facing at home, so we can provide help and support on issues such as gas safety, carbon monoxide awareness, and how to manage rising energy bills.
“By funding this national survey, we now have information which will help Age Scotland adapt their support services to make a difference to many more elderly people throughout the winter months and beyond.
“Around 76% of respondents said they are worried about the cost of their energy bills, and our partnership with Age Scotland means we can reach these people to provide vital support and information about how to manage these costs through their dedicated energy advisors.”
Some of the responses received from survey participants include: “It was a shock to see my monthly bill go up by 91%. I have dipped into reserve money to pay for this.”
“I stopped using my heating in May 2022. I only use one lamp in the evening, have stopped making bread and scones and wear a fleece dressing gown with a blanket when I sit in the evening. When I boil a kettle I make a flask of coffee as well as a cup of coffee. I am not looking forward to the winter and having to be more frugal.”
“On a fixed income all the horrible rising prices and inflation, and declining mental ability to search out better deals, makes us worry about what the future holds for us.”