More than 40% of over 50s in fuel poverty as some skip food to save

The findings, from research by Age Scotland, reveal that 76% of respondents were worried about the cost of their energy bills.

More than 40% of over 50s living in fuel poverty as some sacrifice food to make bills iStock

More than 40% of people over 50 are believed to be living in fuel poverty in Scotland, with some admitting to sacrificing food to meet the cost of rising bills.

New research, conducted by Age Scotland, has revealed that four in ten (42%) of over 50s were struggling with fuel poverty through the summer.

In total, around 76% of respondents said they are worried about the cost of their energy bills.

The charity say the new findings are “incredibly worrying” and have called for more help to ensure older people do not suffer alone.

The survey, conducted nationally, reveals a dramatic fall in the proportion of older households who are able to heat their home from 88% in 2018 to 46% in 2022.

The research, conducted in partnership with SGN, also shows an increase of almost 30% in the number of people concerned about paying their energy bills.

The findings comprise the views of over 1000 people over the age of 50.

Respondents said they relied upon savings and resorted to measures including only heating one room of the home in order to meet payments.

Others admitted to sacrificing other essentials such as food or travel in a bid to meet rising costs.

One participant of the survey said their bills soared by 91%, forcing them to dip into reserve money.

They said: said: “I have delayed full retirement as I cannot afford my housing costs with the rise in the cost of living.  I am now considering having to sell my home to downsize and reduce costs.  I only heat one room now. I have also reduced the amount of cooking I do to use less gas – eating cold foods and so on.”

Another said: “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.”

‘ I am now considering having to sell my home to downsize and reduce costs.’

“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.”

Age Scotland say the numbers highlight the need for further action to tackle the cost-of-living crisis as winter approaches.

The charity’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.”

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