The report from ComparetheMarket found that one in eight older people do not feel they are in a position to afford any further increase in their energy bills. Meanwhile, nearly one in ten say their health suffers because they limit the amount of heating they use and 7 per cent are considering downsizing their home to reduce the cost of energy bills.
If their energy bills rise disproportionately, 38 per cent of over-65s said they would have to dip into their savings or pay on their credit card. Over a quarter believe they would need to cut down on expenditures, including food, to pay their energy bills. Despite February’s unseasonably warm temperatures, nearly half of this demographic are worried that cold winter weather will lead to higher than usual home energy costs. Almost a third of pensioners are either on a standard variable tariff (SVT) or do not know what sort of energy tariff they have, equating to 3.6 million elderly people potentially stuck on uncompetitive standard or default tariffs and paying over the odds.
However, the research suggests the government’s energy price cap, which was designed to lower the bills of households on SVTs, has done little to help more vulnerable demographics. More than half of over-65s said they have seen no change in their bills and only 3 per cent said their bills have decreased.
Ofgem recently announced a £117 increase of the cap level, applicable from next month, which will dramatically push up the cost of energy for millions of older people on SVTs for at least the next six months.
Peter Earl, head of energy at comparethemarket.com, said: “The price cap was meant to reduce energy bills, yet we continue to see costs rise at alarming rates. In the past month alone, all of the Big Six have raised their prices to just below the new cap level coming in to force from 1 April. With so many elderly people on a standard variable rate tariff, they have the most to lose from these large cost increases.
“Nobody should be forced to sacrifice their health in order to heat their home, and especially not some of the most vulnerable members of our society, the elderly. Cold weather and the resulting financial and health problems are a real issue for older people, who have to worry about cold temperatures every year.”