Appeal to help 'fuel poor'

PUBLISHED: 14:24 07 December 2009 | UPDATED: 12:25 10 June 2010

THE head of Age Concern Exmouth is calling on pensioners to send a Christmas card to MP Hugo Swire, appealing for him to back social tariffs so the poor don t have to choose between heat or food this winter.

THE head of Age Concern Exmouth is calling on pensioners to send a Christmas card to MP Hugo Swire, appealing for him to back 'social tariffs' so the poor don't have to choose between heat or food this winter.

The launch of this year's Christmas campaign comes just days after new figures revealed a 54.5 per cent increase in the number of deaths in the South West last winter compared to the previous year.

The charity's chief executive Steve Dace said that last winter, as temperatures plunged, rising inflation and soaring energy bills forced four in ten older people across the country to cut back on their heating to save money.

And he said this year thousands older people will face the same 'cruel choice' between eating and heating this Christmas.

But to prevent this from happening ever again, he said, Age Concern Exmouth is calling on local MPs to use the Energy Bill, currently going through Parliament, to bring in a new system whereby older people on low incomes are automatically placed on the lowest tariffs available from their energy supplier.

Mr Dace says that a new system of social tariffs that could help the 2,333 households in East Devon living in fuel poverty - households are considered fuel poor when they spend 10 per cent or more of their income on energy bills.

"It's a national scandal that just over a third of older households in the UK are living in fuel poverty," he said.

"Thousands of older people will have to choose between eating and heating again this Christmas, as they did last winter. After dithering for far too long, MPs must now bring in mandatory social tariffs for older people on low income as a matter of urgency."

Research shows that with the average energy bill at £1,026 at the start of the year, a cut of £100 would reduce fuel poverty by 45 per cent and a cut of £200 would reduce it by 60 per cent.

Christmas cards are available at Age Concern Exmouth in the Information and Advice Centre at 36A Rolle Street and on the Age Concern and Help the Aged websites www.ageconcern.org.uk and www.helptheaged.org.uk.

ENDS

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