Fuel poverty ‘to kill’ 183

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A worrying 183 vulnerable older people in Doncaster will die this winter because they are living in fuel poverty, heartbreaking new figures have revealed.

Old folk who are too ‘terrified’ of extortionate energy bills to turn on their heating are most at risk of becoming ill or even losing their lives in the freezing winter months, according to a report which went before Doncaster Council’s cabinet.

The report said Doncaster is the third most deprived area in the Yorkshire and Humber region, and the 39th most deprived in England.

Vickie Ferres, chief executive of Age UK Doncaster, said older people in the town were often more susceptible to heart and chest problems in the winter because many of them have worked in mining and heavy industry.

She added: “This isn’t simply a Doncaster problem - it’s a national issue and an issue that has been going on since I started working with older people over 30 years ago.

“It’s a cause of major concern. Doncaster is doing a lot to try to combat fuel poverty but unfortunately that’s always tackling the symptoms and not the causes.

“Traditionally, older people spend a higher proportion of their income on heating. The fear of not being able to pay a bill is very strong for old people and the fear of getting into debt is absolutely terrifying.”

Ms Ferres urged families and friends of older people to make sure their loved ones have well-insulated homes, flu vaccines, and get their benefits checked to make sure they are getting all they are entitled to.

She also encouraged those who don’t need their winter fuel allowance to hand it back so it can be spent on those in greater need.

Don Valley Labour MP Caroline Flint said: “This report’s evidence provides a warning to us all of the risks, particularly to the one in four pensioners who live alone.

“Those in isolation are much more vulnerable to falling ill or going without proper meals, and these risks increase if millions of vulnerable households across the country fall ever deeper into fuel poverty.”

Coun Pat Knight, cabinet member for health and adult social care, added: “We are shortly due to launch a winter warmth campaign.

“We are particularly asking people to remember the needs of friends, relatives and neighbours who could be at risk. Many people are not aware that by not keeping warm they are putting themselves in danger.”

Call the council’s energy team on 01302 737053 if you need help or advice.