The heartbreaking revelations come from charity Age UK as it piles pressure on ministers to ease the plight of OAPs ahead of a looming fuel price rise in April
Pensioners are skipping showers, shunning their ovens and switching off their heating as energy bills rocket, campaigners warn today.
Age UK revealed the plight of OAPs braced for “astronomical” power price hikes this spring.
Experts believe average dual-fuel bills will hit £2,000 in April – a doubling over 12 months.
The charity said: “Many older people are already putting their health at risk by rationing their food and heating to keep their bills down.
Get a daily morning politics briefing straight to your inbox. Sign up for the free Mirror Politics newsletter
“In recent months, the charity has heard from thousands of older people who are already feeling the pinch and rationing their energy use as well as other essentials, including food.
“For example, older people who are too worried to use their oven and are living on soup and sandwiches instead; showering only every two days rather than daily; and constantly watching their smart meter and turning their heating off once their daily spending exceeds the meagre limit they have set.”
It feared the looming price rise “will be totally unmanageable for those living on low fixed incomes – many of whom have few, if any, savings to fall back on”.
Age UK urged ministers to cut the 5% VAT on energy bills from April until at least the end of the year, and provide payments of up to £500 to older people on the lowest incomes.
Charity director Caroline Abrahams said: “The astronomical hike in energy prices now widely anticipated has already forced many deeply anxious older people on low incomes to turn their heating down below what is comfortable or advisable, with some switching it off altogether for some or all of the day and night.
“Make no mistake, this situation will have a devastating impact on the health of our older population unless the Government intervenes quickly and takes their fears away.”
Ms Abrahams warned that OAPs were already suffering, months before the grim price rise.
“This isn’t a crisis that’s arriving in the spring, it’s one that’s here already for many older people because their fear of unaffordable bills is driving them to not even try to stay adequately warm this winter,” she said.
Urging ministers to “intervene swiftly and decisively to protect older people from their own stoicism and self-sacrifice”, she added: “Every day that the Government sits on its hands, it increases the risks to older people’s health from living in a cold home.”
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Older people face a devastating new year cost of living crisis thanks to Boris Johnson’s incompetence.
“Heating bills are going through the roof, while prices in the shops are rising and the promise on the triple lock has been broken.
“Pensioners face going hungry or turning down the heating as the cold weather bites.
“Labour will always stand up for pensioners and would cut VAT on home fuel bills and expand the Warm Home Discount to help struggling families and pensioners with the rising cost of living.”
Ian Vogler / Daily Mirror)
A Government spokesman said: “We are taking decisive action to help more than 11.4 million pensioners with the cost of living by providing Winter Fuel Payments of up to £300 per household.
“This is on top of wider support which includes billions of pounds for households via the Energy Price Cap, Warm Home Discount Scheme, weather-payments-2019-what-13874235>Cold Weather Payments, Household Support Fund, and freezes to alcohol and fuel duty.
“Domestic fuels such as gas and electricity are already subject to the reduced rate of 5% of VAT.”