Poorest pensioners don’t eat to heat their homes



A shocking new report has revealed how the poorest pensioners are cutting how much they spend on food during the coldest spells during the winter, just to be able to heat their homes.

The disturbing findings in a report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies showed how retired households had to increase fuel spending by 7% during the coldest periods, as they tend not to go out and need to heat their homes for longer.

During those same cold snaps, the poorest quarter of all pensioners also decreased their food spend, just to get by.

The damning report comes the day after Scottish Power announced that they would be increasing their prices once again.

From August, Scottish Power plan to increase their electricity prices by 10% and their gas prices by 19% in a move that will increase the energy bills of their 2.4million customers.

The IFS published a separate report at the same time that showed that the elderly spent an average of 41% of their winter fuel payment on heating their homes.

The benefit is described as a winter fuel payment, and will this year by available to nearly everyone who was born before 5th January 1951, and can be between £100 and £300 dependent on the recipients other income.

Whilst the benefit is called a winter fuel payment, recipients are not obliged to spend it on heating. Senior research economist from the IFS, Laura Blow explained, “The winter fuel payment was introduced to encourage older households to spend more on heating in the winter,” said Laura Blow, senior research economist at the IFS.

“Remarkably it appears to have had just that effect. The fact that it is labelled a winter fuel payment appears to mean that much more of it is spent on fuel than would have been the case had no such label been attached.

“This suggests that simply calling a benefit by a particular name can have a real effect on how it is spent. The potential implications for government policy are significant.”

The IFS did point out that when temperatures were 2C lower than is expected for the time of year, even with the cold weather payment top up it is not always enough.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We are committed to doing all we can to ensure that vulnerable older people can keep their homes warm in the winter.”

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