New research by the national charity Turn2us has found that over a third (35%) of over 55s on low incomes are struggling to afford their energy costs, despite being in work. Worryingly, of those who are struggling, nearly two-thirds (63%) have done so for more than a year.
The research reveals that over half (54%) of those aged 55 and over have already cut back on their heating due to their energy costs. Of those who are worried about these costs this winter, over four-fifths (82%) will cut back on their heating further or not use it all, whilst a third (33%) said they would resort to cutting back on food. Almost one in three (31%) anticipate that their energy bills will cause further stress and worry in the coming months.
There are 2.3 million households living in fuel poverty in England alone, and it is estimated that nearly half of these are in work. As debate continues around proposed cuts to the tax credits system, there is growing concern that low income households’ finances could be even harder hit from next year.
Turn2us’ research also suggests a lack of awareness of the help that could be available to low income workers, or potential reluctance to access it. Of those over 55s who are struggling to pay their energy costs, only 10% have told their energy supplier about their situation, and only 4% have turned to an advice organisation for help. A huge 85% have not checked their eligibility for welfare benefits in the last twelve months, whilst over two-thirds (68%) are unaware that some energy suppliers have charitable trusts set up to help certain customers.
This winter, Turn2us is running its No Cold Homes campaign specifically to help more people who are unable to afford to heat their homes. The charity is encouraging anyone in financial hardship to use its free online service to see if they are eligible for welfare benefits, charitable grants and other support – additional income which could help them manage their energy costs over the colder months.
Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us said: “Our research paints a startling picture, revealing the extent to which households are struggling to heat their homes, even though they’re in work. It is clear that more needs to be done to help raise awareness of the financial support and other help available to people on low incomes to help them manage their energy costs.
We know that this is an issue that affects a wide range of people, and alongside working households, many others will suffer this winter. We believe that no one should have to live in a cold home. Through our campaign, we urge anyone struggling to check what support could be available.”
The No Cold Homes campaign runs from 18 November to 16 December 2015. As part of the campaign, Turn2us is hosting an online celebrity clothes auction (30 November – 9 December) to raise awareness of people’s struggles to heat their homes, and funds to help more people affected.
For more information, please visit www.turn2us.org.uk/NoColdHomes.