Saturday, December 02, 2006

How Are The Elderly Coping With The Winter?

Hi There,

A BBC report today highlights increasing concerns about the ability of older people to ensure that they can keep warm in their homes this Winter.

So far, the temperatures have been pretty mild but as we head towards December that is likely to change - just look at the snow storms in the Mid West of the USA. Generally speaking, if the East Coast of the USA gets bad winter weather then the UK gets the tail end of this about a week after.

So be warned my friends and dont concine your scarf and bobble hat and the ice scraper to the cupboard ! The BBC Weather team predictions for our forthcoming Winter weather seems to indicate that we will have a mild winter but we will also get very cold snaps during snowfall. Its these cold snaps that can unfortunately be lethal.

Rod Griffiths, of the Faculty of Public Health said there would be "a lots more deaths, unecessary deaths, because people cant afford the fuel".

I know I have highlighted this issue before on earlier postings, but it is a huge concern and it doesnt appear that this Government is prepared to increase the winter fuel payments despite rising Council tax costs. Some older people will face a stark choice this winter as a result - do they struggle financially or cut back on heating their homes and on food. A recipe for disaster.

The present winter fuel payment covers less than one fifth of the average home heating bill. £200 does not represent the level of assistance that our seniors need - they need more support in line with the rising cost of energy. This point is underlined by both Help The Aged and Age Concern.

It is said more than a third of over 65s living on the lowest household incomes saw 10% of their earnings eaten up paying the bill.

Anne Gall

One quarter said they were left with either no money at the end of the month or having to forego some basics, such as heating.

Meanwhile, Brendan Paddy from Age Concern told BBC News 24 it was vital older people were able to keep themselves warm.

"As we get older our bodies are just less able to cope with extremes of temperature they used to be," he said.

"Older people tend to spend a lot more time inactive and in their homes so it's especially important they are able to heat their homes adequately."

Hobbies neglected

The government has said that pensioners' incomes are "higher than they have ever been".

But in the Help the Aged survey, 5% of those questioned had gone without some food, while 8% said they had cut back on heating.

The report also showed that 13% - equivalent to more than a million pensioners - had had to cut back on hobbies and socialising in order to meet council tax payments.

Anna Pearson, senior policy officer at Help the Aged, said: "The government must reform council tax so that it better takes account of income and in the short-term the chancellor should immediately return the £200 rebate on council tax bills to pensioners."

Discount withdrawn

The £200 discount was first made available before the 2005 general election but was later withdrawn.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said the government was "proud of its record in tackling pensioner poverty" and as a result of changes since 1997, the average pensioner households were now £1,400 a year better off.

He added: "Those in receipt of pension credit guarantee are entitled to full council tax benefit, so should not be paying any council tax bills."

Shadow local government secretary Caroline Spelman said: "This research shows the genuine hardship and distress felt by some of the most vulnerable people in society as a result of Gordon Brown's decision to drive council tax up by 84% since 1997."

Well done Gordon, Tony and David Milliband - we all need to lobby our local MPs to raise the profile of this deplorable plight faced by many in our communities who have paid into society all their working lives, underwent the horrors of World War Two (and WW1), lived through many challenges - the last thing that these good people need to bear the brunt of is more profiteering by the energy suppliers.

As I said when British Gas were interviewed a few weeks ago at the UK offshore gas storage facility, how long do we need to wait until we start to see the costs reducing as the new pipelines and agreements come on board?

However this is hardly a good time to pick a fight about fuel agreements with the Russians is it?

Take care, enjoy your weekend and please come back soon. As always if you have any comments or questions please dont hesitate to drop me a line.

From Your Friend The Energy Angel

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