- Thursday, 18 October 2012
A new survey commissioned by Turn2us, part of national charity Elizabeth Finn Care, has found that people aged 65 and over on low incomes are unaware of the potential support available to help with their fuel bills.
This is despite the fact that over half (56%) of those surveyed are uncertain if they can meet these costs this winter without experiencing financial hardship.
Over two-fifths (43%) of people aged 65 and over living in low income households have never checked their eligibility for welfare benefits and tax credits, and over half (54%) are currently not claiming benefits that they may be entitled to. Claiming benefits entitlements can not only boost income to help pay fuel bills but can also act as a trigger for eligibility from various fuel poverty programmes.
The research also found that over half (53%) are unaware that energy suppliers have to offer cheaper ‘social tariffs’ to their most vulnerable customers and a fifth (20%) are not aware of the government’s Warm Front scheme which provides funding for insulation and heating improvements – despite the fact that they are on a low income and could be eligible for assistance from these schemes. Furthermore, over a quarter (27%) have never or can not remember when they last checked they were on the cheapest energy tariff available to them.
These results are particularly worrying in light of the findings that the costs of last winter’s fuel bills caused nearly a third (30%) to feel stressed and one in ten (10%) to suffer illness or physical pain as a result of cold conditions.
Shockingly, almost two-fifths (39%) said that if they were struggling to meet their fuel costs, they would resort to switching off their heating altogether or only heating one room at a time and over a quarter (28%) would cut back on other essentials including food, yet only 6% would consider approaching a charity to see if they were eligible for a grant.
The official definition of fuel poverty is where a household has to spend more than 10% of its income on fuel to maintain an adequate level of warmth. There are currently an estimated 4.75 million households in fuel poverty in the UK, and around half of fuel poor households contain someone aged 60 and over. Turn2us is running its second annual Acting on Fuel Poverty campaign throughout the winter to highlight the support available to those struggling with their fuel costs, and has launched a dedicated campaign microsite at www.fuelpovertymap.org.uk
The microsite directs users to sources of help including the Turn2us Benefits Calculator to work out which welfare benefits and tax credits they might be entitled to, the Turn2us Grants Search database which provides access to over 3,000 charitable funds, information pages on increasing energy efficiency and energy efficiency grants, and a link to the Which? Switch energy tariff comparison tool for users to check they are on the best tariff available to them. The microsite also includes an interactive fuel poverty map for users to find out, according to the official definition, if they are in fuel poverty and compare different areas across the UK.
Alison Taylor, Director of Turn2us said: “Our latest research findings show that there is a need for individuals and families to have access to clear information and independent guidance to help them find support with rising energy costs. Our fuel poverty microsite brings together a number of tools which are free to use – all in one place, which can help households identify whether they can maximise their income and reduce their energy costs ahead of the arrival of their winter bills.”
Helen worked as a nurse for many years before she had to leave work due to ill health, and on a limited income, she found herself struggling with her household bills. Her house was damp and living in a rural village, Helen would travel to the nearest town library once a week to keep warm for a few hours. It was here that searching on the internet, she came across Turn2us. Helen identified through Turn2us that she was eligible for a charitable grant which paid for the damp in her home to be fixed and gave her some extra money to put towards her bills.
Helen said: “The money I received has been a lifesaver and has had a huge impact on my quality of life. I now live in a warm home and the extra money for bills has really taken some of the pressure off.”
Turn2us is working in partnership with a number of charities and organisations across the UK for the Acting on Fuel Poverty campaign who will help to increase awareness of the help available for those in fuel poverty and how they can access it.
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