Charities across Britain are warning that many pensioners will face a cold and miserable winter, following the news that British Gas is to increase its gas and electricity prices.
The price rises, which will come into effect from 18 August, will see gas rise by an average of 18% and electricity by 16%.It makes British Gas the second company to announce significant increases in recent weeks. Last month, Scottish Power announced it would be increasing the cost of gas by 19% and the cost of electricity by 10%.
With it only being a matter of time before other energy providers following their lead, pensioner support groups and charities across the UK have warned of a difficult winter ahead for the elderly as people struggle to stay warm and also contend with the overall increased cost of living.
“This news is particularly worrying for elderly people,” said James Monger, the senior manager for Age UK, Redbridge.
“They are in their homes a lot more than the rest of us and we know they often skimp on heating and sometimes on food because they are worried about paying their bills,” he added.
The acting chief executive of Age Concern Essex, Peter Bland echoed Mr Monger’s sentiments.
“This latest increase will penalise those on low incomes, and that group includes a lot of older people. We’ll be telling them to concentrate on keeping warm, because the alternative could be freezing to death, and that is no alternative at all,” he said.
Although many energy firms offer online discounts for customers, many older people are unable to take advantage of these reduced tariffs.
Last year, the Citizens Advice Bureau helped almost 104,000 people with fuel debt problems nationwide. The winter fuel payment remains absolutely vital to elderly people, despite chancellor George Osborne announcing in March that the yearly tax-free payment to help older people pay for their heating in the winter would be reduced from £250 to £200 a week for the over 60s, and from £400 to £300 a week for the over 80s.