More than one in four older Scots struggling with fuel bills
More than one in four older Scots with health conditions are struggling to pay their fuel bills, according to new research by Age Scotland.
Six in 10 people aged 55 and older are concerned about rising fuel bills, according to the study released to coincide with Fuel Poverty Awareness Day today.
The charity is calling on the Scottish Government to set more ambitious targets for the eradication of fuel poverty. It is also highlighting the assistance and advice available to older people who have difficulty heating their homes.
More than half of single pensioner households and four in 10 pensioner couples live in fuel poverty, defined as spending more than 10 per cent of income on energy costs. Rural households are most likely to be affected.
Last year there was a significant increase in excess winter deaths among those aged 85 and older, with 1,430 additional deaths recorded compared to 2016/17, according to National Records of Scotland.
Age Scotland’s nationwide Housing Survey, carried out by ScotInform, found that one in ten people aged 55 and older have struggled to pay their fuel bills, rising to 27 per cent among those with a long-term health condition.
People in the 55 to 64 age range are most likely to struggle to pay their fuel bills. The Winter Fuel Payment is only payable to people from the winter following their 64th birthday.
The research also found that large numbers of older people are living in unsuitable homes that don’t fit their needs.
One in eight Scots with a health problem said they are living in unsuitable homes, with respondents citing damp, maintenance needs, and difficulty heating. However finance and a lack of suitable alternatives - either private or social housing - were the main reasons preventing them from moving.
Among all respondents, one in five felt that their home would not meet their needs in the future. The main features people look for are proximity to local shops and services (51 per cent), a smaller, more manageable home (38 per cent), and ability for the home to be adapted to meet changing needs (34 per cent).
The charity supports the Scottish Government’s commitment to eradicate fuel poverty in a new Warm Homes Bill. But it is calling for more ambitious targets and urging the Government to reconsider its goal of reducing fuel poverty to less than 10 per cent by 2040.
It also believes there needs to be substantial dedicated funding for energy efficiency measures and clearer advice and signposts to assistance, so that older people know what is available and how to claim.
Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “It’s unacceptable that older people are putting their health at risk because they can’t afford to heat their homes. Older people are at increased risk of death during the colder months due to existing health conditions such as respiratory conditions, heart disease and dementia.
“Our research shows that people with health conditions and disabilities are most likely to be struggling to pay their fuel bills. In many cases, older people will cut their spending on food and other essential items simply to keep their homes warm, or keep their homes at below the recommended temperature.
“While there has been a lot of progress in recent years to improve energy efficiency of homes, the current target to reduce fuel poverty to less than 10 per cent by 2040 does not go far enough. We would like to see more ambitious targets, with the Scottish Government, energy companies and charities working together to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland.”