It came as official figures revealed there were 60,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in winter 2020/2021 – the highest recorded rate since 1969/1970
Image: TIM ANDERSON)
Pensioners facing fuel poverty in the biting cold of winter marched a super-sized wreath up Downing Street to pressure Boris Johnson into action on energy bills.
The National Pensioners’ Convention warned the Prime Minister that there was a “death penalty awaiting our poorest and most vulnerable this winter” amid spiking inflation and Rishi Sunak’s decision to break the pensions triple lock.
It came as official figures revealed there were 60,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in the 2020/2021 winter period – the highest recorded rate since 1969/1970. Campaigners believe that cold homes may have contributed to some of the deaths.
Jan Shortt, General Secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention, which helped to organise the protest, said thousands of elderly people will have the grim choice between eating and heating their homes.
She said: “No one should die in this country – one of the richest in the world – as the result of cold in the 21st Century.
“Yet people on low incomes across the country will already be having to choose whether to eat or heat their homes this winter. Their situation has been worsened by spiralling inflation – which may hit 5 or 6% by next February – driving up costs of essentials like food and heating at the coldest part of the year.
“The government is doing virtually nothing to help these people – including the 2.1 million pensioners currently living in poverty. Indeed, the Chancellor in his recent Budget managed to make things worse with a range of measures that helped bankers and big business with tax breaks, while the poorest are having to pay more.
“And to add to pensioners’ misery, just days ago the government voted to downgrade the triple lock to safeguard state pensions for the first time in 11 years.
“We need the Prime Minister to recognise the death penalty awaiting our poorest and most vulnerable this winter and step in with measures to regulate prices and most importantly help those in need afford the basics he and the more well off take for granted.
“The NPC hopes Mr Johnson will understand the disaster ahead for our poorest this winter and personally step in to help as a matter of urgency.”
Paula Lea, a 67-year-old retired housing officer from north London, said: “I’m concerned about my bills but I know there will be a lot of people even worse off than me. And it’s getting colder.
“They don’t seem to think about older people anymore. People on the basic pension of £8,000 a year are just not going to have anything left.”
Norma Lawrence, 80, a retired carer who lives in Southwark, said: “Most pensioners will not be able to afford their bills this winter and the government needs to take notice.
“Are they trying to kill us off with the cold? They need to make sure our homes can be kept warm. This is supposed to be a civilised country.
“We have worked hard all of lives and we shouldn’t be stood out here in the cold having to convince the government or anyone else. It’s outrageous that we have to protest at all.”
John Knight, 63, a retired charity worker, told the Mirror pensioners faced a choice between heating or eating as the winter draws in.
He said: “It’s going to be a really tough winter for pensioners and inflation is 4.2% so food prices are going up as well. We live in a sheltered housing complex and some of our neighbours are on Universal Credit. You can see life getting tougher for them too.
“The whole country is in crisis but no one seems able to stand up and lead. I hope we will be heard.”
A Government spokesperson said the energy price cap would stay in place this winter.
They added: “We remain committed to protecting the most vulnerable in society and our £500m Household Support Fund was introduced this year to help people with essential costs through the winter.
“Supporting energy consumers is also a key priority, which is why our Energy Price Cap will remain in place, while we continue to help vulnerable and low-income households through initiatives such as the Warm Home Discount Scheme, Winter Fuel Payments and weather -payments-2019-what-13874235>Cold Weather Payments.”