Cost of living crisis: almost 20,000 older Preston people received help to heat homes last winter

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Almost 20,000 older people living in Preston received help to pay their heating bills last winter, new figures show.

As Britons prepare to deal with the colder months and soaring energy bills, charity Age UK said spiralling prices are making it increasingly difficult for older people to heat their homes.

The winter fuel payment is a tax-free annual benefit paid to people over pension credit age to help them with their bills as temperatures drop.

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Department for Work and Pensions statistics show 19,866 older people received a winter fuel payment in 2021 – up from 19,700 the year before.

Of them, 5,635 were aged over 80, while a further 4,679 were aged 69 and under.

In Great Britain, 11.2 million payments were made last winter – up slightly on the 11.1 million made the year previous.

The winter fuel payment is made to anyone who was born on or before September 25 1956 and lived in the UK for at least one day during the qualifying week, which this year was from September 19 to 25.

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The amount someone receives depends on their age, household circumstances and the benefits they received in the qualifying week.

Normal payments range between £100 and £300, but the Government uprated these by £300 for 2022-23 due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Most will be paid automatically in November and December.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said winter fuel payments are a crucial lifeline for pensioners across the country, helping low, fixed-income households keep their heating on during colder periods.

And fuel poverty charity National Energy Action said older people who were the most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic now face the rising cost of living ahead of cold winter months.

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NEA director of policy Peter Smith said: “The frailest and elderly and many other groups face serious health impacts as a result of fuel poverty this winter.

People living on low, fixed incomes, are finding it impossible to respond to big increases in their energy bills.”

In September, former Prime Minister Liz Truss introduced the energy price guarantee to cap the energy bills of a typical household at £2,500 annually for two years – still 96% higher than last winter.

But following the mini-budget announcement later in the month, which led to economic chaos in the UK, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the two-year guarantee would instead end in April 2023.

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Energy market researcher Cornwall Insight predicts a typical household will spend £3,700 per year after the price cap ends.

The NEA said older people missing out on pension credit – a weekly benefit aimed at retired people on low incomes – will add to the cost-of-living strain.

Mr Smith warned that more than 1 million people eligible for pension credit do not claim it and said energy bills are “likely to stay unaffordable for many older people this winter and next” despite the winter fuel payments.

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