Imminent Energy Price Rise a “big bombshell if you’re a pensioner.”
Energy bills rising by 54% on Friday, 1 April.
Older people are already disproportionately affected by fuel poverty.
Dementia, and illnesses associated with falls, such as arthritis and osteoarthritis, are exacerbated by the cold.
30% of excess deaths in winter in Wales are attributed directly to a cold home.1
Yet, £200 million of Pension Credit went unclaimed in Wales last year.2
Concern is growing for older people in Wales as energy bills are set to soar this week, putting further strain on households already reeling from the cost-of-living crises.
Electricity and gas bills for a typical household will go up by £693 a year on 1 April. This rise in energy bills will impact people like 73-year-old, Roslyn Curtis, from Cardiff, “It’s a big bombshell, if you’re a pensioner. It was bad enough last winter, but now with all this going on, I don’t know. It’s life changing, I think.”
Living on her own in a small 2-bed flat, Roslyn is worried about how she might afford all her bills come April, “I only get a small pension, and there are other bills to pay, it’s just ridiculous. I’m scared really about what’s going to happen next Winter.”
The situation is exacerbated by the rising fuel costs and food prices, putting even more pressure on households. Roslyn has been helped by Care & Repair’s 70+ Cymru project, which is offering free advice and support to older people in Wales, helping to tackle the current crises and keep households out of fuel poverty.
A major piece of advice being given by Care & Repair to older people in Wales is to make sure to claim the benefits you are entitled to. According to the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, over £200 million of Pension Credit went unclaimed in Wales last year.
Benefits can also be claimed by those who are disabled or are being cared for. This is vitally important as the energy crisis will be worse for those who have health difficulties or are disabled, as they are more likely to spend significant time at home and use their heating more often.
For vulnerable older and disabled people in Wales, there is support available. The 70+ Cymru project, from Care & Repair, aims to improve the warmth, comfort, and quality of life for people like Roslyn, “The Cardiff team at Care & Repair have helped me in every way. All this advice and equipment has changed my life for the better. The friendly people who work there have reassured and inspired confidence in me to carry on living independently."
Care & Repair caseworkers are visiting homes and providing free advice and support on home energy saving techniques and housing improvements. Their team of Home Energy Officers are working to find ways to keep homes safe and warm for older people.
Care & Repair’s 70+ Cymru service is available to anyone in Wales aged 60 or over who owns their own home or privately rents. To find out more about how Care & Repair can help, go to www.careandrepair.org.uk/mybills or phone 0300 111 3333.
Wayne Hughes, a Home Energy Officer for the 70+ Cymru Project, working for Care & Repair Carmarthenshire, said:
“I think the price cap rising is a massive concern, it’s been a perfect storm coming for a while. We’re going to get calls from clients saying, ‘my bills have doubled, and I don’t understand why’.
“We have met clients who have chosen to stay in bed under their duvet rather than put their heating on, one of those we met had no central heating and was struggling to keep their solid fuel heating going. In rural north Wales, a client bought battery operated fairy lights to illuminate their front room rather than use electricity.”
Steve Cadwallader-Jones, a Home Energy Officer for the 70+ Cymru Project, working for Powys Care & Repair, said:
“I spoke to one 78-year-old lady who was on an extremely low income. She was very appreciative for any advice, but her main concern was that she may not be able to afford fuel for her car. She was so scared that she wouldn’t be able to go down to the shop or travel to see her friends. She was in turmoil really because she didn’t know what to do.”
Chris Jones, the CEO of Care & Repair Cymru, said:
“This is an extremely difficult time for many older people in Wales. Coming off the back of the pandemic, the rise in energy bills will be just too much for some. That’s why Care & Repair’s 70+ Cymru project is helping older loved ones stay warm and safe at home while keeping their bills down.”
The Full Case Study
73-year-old Roslyn Curtis is from Cardiff. She is a widow and lives on her own in a small 2-bed flat. Her flat has no gas, and the heating runs on electric. Her energy company went bust last autumn and she is now paying almost £130 for her electricity. She only receives a modest pension and a small private pension, so is worried about how she might afford all her bills come April. Roslyn said:
“It’s a big bombshell, if you’re a pensioner. It was bad enough last winter, but now with all this going on, I don’t know. It’s life changing, I think.
“When my electricity company Utility Point went bust in September 2021, I was passed to EDF. They immediately put my direct debit up to £90 a month. By January, they put it up again to £110 and despite ringing and emailing they did not respond. Now, they are asking for £128 a month!
“I only get a small pension, and there are other bills to pay, it’s just ridiculous.
“My family have said they will help, but now my daughter has three children, and she will have her own problems. I don’t want to ask them to help me with my bills, I would rather just keep one room heated. I’m scared really about what’s going to happen next Winter.
“I’ve got a lot of things wrong with me at the moment, I’ve got heart problems, and I am classed as disabled. My mobility is not that good, I try and go for walks, but I do get nervous, because I don’t want to slip.
“The Cardiff team at Care & Repair have helped me in every way. All this advice and equipment has changed my life for the better. The friendly people who work there have reassured and inspired confidence in me to carry on living independently."
1 Public Health Wales, 2019. Improving winter health and well-being and reducing winter pressures in Wales: a preventative approach. Available at: https://phw.nhs.wales/news/winter-health-how-we-can-all-make-a-difference/report/ p.4
Notes To Editors
About Care & Repair Cymru
Care & Repair Cymru and the 13 Care & Repair Agencies across Wales, support over 40,000 older people every year. We believe that no older person should live in cold, unsafe housing. We carry out thousands of home adaptations and repairs for older people, keeping them safe from accidents or helping in discharging them from hospital.
Working in partnership with the NHS and local authorities, we identify older people most at risk, and then step in to prevent their increasing dependency on the NHS and social care services.
Care & Repair champion the housing needs of older people living in owner occupied and private rented housing. We do this by providing expertise, advocacy and evidence to support investment that ensures all older people in Wales can live independently and safely at home.
About 70+ Cymru
The 70+ Cymru project is an initiative run by Care & Repair Cymru and funded by Energy Saving Trust’s (EST) Energy Redress Scheme. It aims to tackle fuel poverty in Wales by improving the warmth, comfort, and quality of life for older people in Wales.
The project currently has eight Home Energy Officers working in all parts of Wales. They assess the thermal efficiency of properties and then advise the homeowners on what improvements can be made and where they might be able to find funding for it.
If you are interested in running this story, or setting up an interview with Roslyn Curtis or anyone involved in the 70+ Cymru project, please contact our PR Officer:
PR & Marketing Officer
T: 07818 554 385