Pensioner fuel poverty has doubled in two years, charity warns

Government-backed survey finds 39% of over 65s live in fuel poverty in 2023 as charity brands figures 'alarming.'

Pensioner fuel poverty has doubled over the last two years in Scotland, a charity has warned.

A government-funded national housing survey carried out by Age Scotland found 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.

Nearly four in ten over-65s live in fuel poverty according to the housing surveyiStock

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.

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.”

The Scottish Government’s Housing Minister, Paul McLennan, said: “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 £10m 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 June 29, 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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