Nearly a quarter (24%) of older people believe they will be forced to choose between heating their home and the food they buy as a result of rising energy bills and the ongoing cost of living crisis.
A recent survey among over-65s conducted on behalf of Age UK found that more than half (54%) of those who took part said they would have to heat their home less and just over two-fifths (43%) said they would have to cut back on food shopping, go into debt or simply will not be able to afford to pay their fuel bills.
The squeeze on households tightened in March as rapidly rising food and fuel prices sent inflation to another 30-year high of 7%, even before energy bills spiked.
Speaking to Age UK about the rising cost of living, one 69-year-old woman said: “I’m reduced to showering on alternate days, which I hate, and I’m eating food that’s microwaveable to avoid heating my oven.”
Age UK has warned that many older people are missing out on extra income because they are not receiving Pension Credit, despite being eligible.
It said many older people on low incomes are unaware that they qualify for the benefit delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and that a successful claim might not provide a huge cash boost, but it also opens the door to a wide range of other support, including help with rent, mortgage payments, Council Tax and TV License costs – if they are over 75.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Many older people are reliant on the State Pension as their main source of income and simply do not have the flex in their finances to cope with such enormous price rises.
“At Age UK, we are being contacted every day by desperate older people in this position, people for whom there are only ‘bad choices’ – ration your energy use, cut back on food or other essentials, or go into debt.”
She added: “Any older person who is finding it difficult to pay their bills, or who is worried about staying warm, can call us today – if we help you to submit a successful claim it could make all the difference.
“There really is no downside to checking you are receiving everything you are entitled to, so please come forward and let us help you make sure.”
A UK Government spokesperson said: “We know this has been a challenging time for many people, which is why we’re providing support to help households across the country with the cost of living.
“We are continuing to encourage those eligible for Pension Credit, and the wide range of other benefits it can provide, to make a claim.”
People can call the charity’s advice line on freephone 0800 169 65 65, contact their local Age UK office, or visit www.ageuk.org.uk.
What is Pension Credit?
Pension Credit is an income-related benefit aimed at people living in the UK over State Pension age.
It offers older people a weekly top-up to their income – you can also choose to be paid fortnightly or every four weeks.
You can check your eligibility for Pension Credit using the online calculator on the GOV.UK website here.
It’s available to single pensioners, including widows and widowers, as well as couples.
To use the online calculator, you will need details of:
You’ll need the same details for your partner if you have one.
Who cannot use the Pension Credit calculator?
You cannot use the calculator if you or your partner:
are deferring your State Pension
own more than one property
are self employed
have housing costs (such as service charges or Crown Tenant rent) which are neither mortgage repayments nor rent covered by Housing Benefit
How to make a claim
You can start your application up to four months before you reach State Pension age.
You can claim any time after you reach State Pension age but your claim can only be backdated for three months.
This means you can get up to three months of Pension Credit in your first payment if you were eligible during that time.
You will need:
your National Insurance number
information about your income, savings and investments
your bank account details, if you’re applying by phone or by post
If you’re backdating your claim, you’ll need details of your income, savings and investments on the date you want your claim to start.
You can use the online service if:
To check your entitlement, phone the Pension Credit helpline on 0800 99 1234 or use the GOV.UK Pension Credit calculator here to find out how much you could get.
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