Pensioner fuel poverty doubles in two years, charity warns

Pensioner fuel poverty doubles in two years, charity warns

Fuel poverty rates have doubled among pensioners in Scotland over the last two years according to new research from Age Scotland.

The charity’s largest national housing survey of older people identified that 39% of over 65s are living in fuel poverty in 2023, compared to the last available set of Scottish Government figures for 2021 (19%).

The research highlighted that more than four in ten people over the age of 50 (43%) live in fuel poverty, but it is most prevalent among those of people between the age of 55 and 64 with a staggering 50% of these households affected.

Age Scotland and ScotInform surveyed more than 1,100 over 50s from every local authority in Scotland. The study was funded by the Scottish Government.

The majority of respondents felt that their current home will be unsuitable for them in the future. In total 60% said they either do not believe or are unsure that their home will meet their needs in the next ten years. Household costs, including energy bills, lack of accessibility within the home, distance from friends and family and a decline in health were all given as reasons why older people feel like they might need to move.

According to the Age Scotland research, since 2018 the proportion of older people who feel that their current home is very suitable for their needs has dropped from 58% to 45% in 2023.

The survey found that although awareness of energy efficiency programmes had risen in the past 12 months, the numbers of older people accessing the support remains low, with just 10% of older households using Home Energy Scotland or Warmer Homes Scotland and only 3% had used a local authority-based scheme.

Age Scotland has six key recommendations for government and local authorities based on the survey’s findings:

  • Create a national one-stop-shop for energy efficiency advice, including grants, loans and other support available to make it easier for people living in fuel poverty to know where to turn for help and support.
  • Prioritise and increase the delivery of age-friendly accessible homes across the country, to address the growing problem for older people of living in unsuitable or inaccessible housing.
  • Deliver smarter targeted and proactive energy efficiency support for low-income homes by using Social Security Scotland data linked to the Winter Heating Payment.
  • Improve and promote to older households the availability of home adaptation services whether it is through a council’s Scheme of Assistance or a local Care and Repair.
  • Increased understanding of why there are a growing number of older people living in the private rented sector, and that the low awareness of their rental rights are boosted to ensure they have access to safe and accessible homes.
  • Local authorities must commit to providing better, meaningful engagement with older residents, to understand their housing needs and challenges when developing future local housing strategies and future housing developments.

Katherine Crawford, interim chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “The Age Scotland Housing Survey gives a unique insight into the housing needs and concerns of people aged 50 plus across the country.

“While there is plenty of good news to suggest that the majority of those who took part are happy in their homes, it’s alarming to learn that almost half of those who responded are living in fuel poverty – and a further 16% are not sure if they are, but could be close.

“These results lay bare the shocking impact rising energy prices and the cost of living crisis are having on older people. We cannot allow a situation where older people are putting their health at risk by failing to heat their homes adequately.

“The number of older people who told us they believed they did not live in homes that would be suitable for their needs in ten years time is another issue that must be addressed at national and local government level. It is vital that age-friendly, accessible housing is delivered for those in need, taking into account the type of housing older people want and ensuring that they are part of local communities with easy access to medical services, shops and places to meet with friends.”

Housing minister Paul McLennan added: “I welcome the Age Scotland National Housing Survey. The Scottish Government recognises the issues raised and is working to improve them. Our priority is to do everything we can to help those worst affected by high energy bills which is why we tripled the Fuel Insecurity Fund from £10 million to £30m.

“Older people should have choice, dignity and freedom to access suitable homes, built or adapted so they can participate as full and equal citizens. We are taking steps to ensure older people can find housing that meets their needs by increasing the supply of accessible and adapted homes and improving choice.

“We plan to introduce a new Scottish Accessible Homes Standard and launched a consultation on 29 June, which will seek views from stakeholders including older people on how we can future proof new homes by building in accessibility and adaptability from the start. This will ensure older people have an increased range of housing options and reduce the need to make costly changes to homes as their needs change.

“We are also taking forward a review of the current housing adaptations system, due to conclude this year.”

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