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Wellbeing

One in 10 older people think their cold house is affecting their health

Posted 22 December 2014

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More than half of over-50s are worried about how they’ll pay for their heating bill this winter, and three-fifths said they’ll have to wear extra layers to keep the cold at bay.

Older people could be hit by the cold weather this winter, as more than half are worried about heating their home, according to a report from Saga.


New research shows that one in 10 over-50s believe that their health has been affected by living in a cold house. More than half said that they are worried about how much it will cost them to heat their home this winter, and three-fifths said that they would have to put on extra layers of clothing to cope with the cold.


The news follows research carried out for us*, which found that one in five respondents admitted that they would have to cut back on their food shopping to pay for their heating, and one 20 even said that they expected to borrow money to afford to heat their home. This is worrying news, as it shows that some people could be paying for their priority utility bills using credit.


One in eight said that they would have to pay some other bills late or only in part to cover the heating cost. This could lead to missed payments starting to build up, which might mean more fees, and increasing debts.

Keeping warm for older people

If your heating bills are likely to leave you tight for money this winter, you may be able to access some benefits to help you cover the cost. The Winter Fuel Payment is for people aged over 62 and is between £100 and £300 tax-free to help towards the cost of heating. If you’re aged between 62 and 79, you’ll be able to get up £200, while those aged over 80 could claim the full £300. You’ll have to apply to claim the money, and it can take a while to come through, meaning some older people could still be struggling to afford their bills until they get the payment.


You could also get Cold Weather Payments if you receive Pension Credit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or Universal Credit. This isn’t based on age, and you could claim £25 for each 7-day period where your local weather is an average of zero degrees Celsius or less.


Depending on your energy supplier, you may also be able to get £140 off your electricity bill under the Warm Home Discount scheme. You’ll get a letter about this if you receive the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, and your energy supplier is signed up to the scheme. If you qualify, this is deducted from your heating bill … it won’t be paid to you directly.

Getting help with heating

If you think you’ll struggle to pay your heating bills this winter because you have too many other debts to manage, you might need to get help managing your finances. Heating your home is a priority, and lenders will recognise that you shouldn’t have to go cold or hungry to pay for unsecured debts.


However, if you start to neglect other bills and debts, they could start to mount up, and any fees for late or missed payments could make it hard for you to get back on your feet again. If you need help managing your problem debt, you could speak to one of our debt experts or another source of independent help, and you might be able to have a warmer winter.


*OnePoll questioned a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults aged 18 and over between 24th September and 3rd October 2014. Figures have been extrapolated to fit ONS 2013 population projections of 64,105,700 UK adults.

by Christine Walsh

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