‘Fifth of over-65s rationed energy use this winter’

More than a fifth of over-65s rationed their energy use this winter in order to afford their bills, a survey suggests.

Almost half (48%) of the age group are worried about their energy costs and 12% do not feel able to afford any increase, while a further 16% worry about being able to pay their bills from their pension or income alone, the poll for comparethemarket.com indicates.

Some 8% said their health had suffered because they limit the amount of heating they use, and 7% said they were considering downsizing their home to reduce their energy bills.

Almost a third (30%) of over-65s are either on a standard variable tariff (SVT) or do not know what sort of tariff they are on, equating to 3.6 million older people potentially stuck on uncompetitive deals and paying over the odds, the price comparison site said.

The findings come after all of the “big six” suppliers increased the cost of their standard variable tariff to meet Ofgem’s £117 increase to its price cap from April 1.

Among those polled, 38% of over-65s said they would have to dip into their savings or pay on their credit card if their energy bills rose “disproportionately”, while 28% said they would need to cut down on other expenditure including food in order to meet their bills.

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.

“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.

“It should be an absolute priority to ensure that they are able to afford their energy costs and appropriately heat their home.”

Populus surveyed 2,419 UK adults aged 65 and over between February 4 and 24.

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