The 2023 National Pensioners’ Annual Convention has heard a stark warning that millions of vulnerable people will be unable to stay warm this winter.
Last year, over 9m adults lived in Dickensian conditions unable to keep their homes warm and damp free. The figures for the Warm This Winter campaign, also revealed that over 1m of these adults were older and those with disabilities were especially vulnerable to living in cold damp conditions.
From 1 July energy bills will be roughly the same as last winter and while some reduction in the Ofgem price cap may come through before winter 2023/24, the Convention heard that this would still mean energy bills are double what they were in 2021/22.
New figures from Age UK and the ONS reveal that almost half (45%, 11.3 million) of people aged 50+ in Great Britain are currently finding it difficult to afford their energy bills.
Addressing the meeting in Blackpool, Simon Francis, coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, said:
“At a recent meeting with pensioners, one told me that the only change between their living conditions in the 1940s and those of today was that they had an inside toilet now. They said that the poverty they experienced as a child is what they are now experiencing again.
“Food banks, sanitary banks, pet food banks and massive government support for energy bills are the only things keeping people from destitution.
“We cannot allow this to continue any more and the Government needs to act to keep people warm this winter and every winter. We can only do this through debt relief and financial support now alongside a rapid programme of energy efficiency improvements and speeding up the generation of cheap renewable energy and moving us away from the fossil fuel profiteers of the past.”
Delegates representing the National Pensioners Convention’s 1.1 million UK members have met at The Imperial Hotel in Blackpool to discuss why millions of today’s – and tomorrow’s – older people face poverty, hardship and the loss of vital services.
NPC General Secretary Jan Shortt said:
“The last few years have been particularly tough on our oldest and most vulnerable.
“Hundreds of thousands died in the pandemic, and millions now struggle to make ends meet as prices rocket, while the real value of pensions drop. Older people are having to choose between eating and heating, while the essential services they rely upon, from health and care to housing and transport, continue to decline or disappear completely.
“This isn’t just a problem for older people now, it is a major issue for today’s workers who wonder if they’ll ever be able to afford to retire. Especially if the government pushes back the retirement age to 68 and threatens to scrap the Triple Lock that should guarantee state pension cost of living increases.”
Other Convention speakers will include Robert Palmer from Tax Justice, John Lister from Keep Our NHS Public, Lord Davies of Brixton on the future of the state pension, and Tom Lowe from the Digital Poverty Alliance on the exclusion of older people from our increasingly online world. Leaders from national organisations like Age UK, Independent Age, Ageing Better, as well as the TUC, Unite and UNISON will also be attending.