Pensioners are at risk of freezing to death this winter because rocketing fuel prices mean many will switch off their heating, the Government has been warned.

Former Pensions Minister Ros Altmann demanded that the Government take urgent action to support hard-up pensioners amid warnings that household bills could double this year.

Prices have soared after the wholesale cost of gas rose six times since the start of last year, hitting a record high before Christmas.

Former Pensions Minister Ros Altmann demanded that the Government take urgent action to support hard-up pensioners amid warnings that household bills could double this year

Former Pensions Minister Ros Altmann demanded that the Government take urgent action to support hard-up pensioners amid warnings that household bills could double this year

Former Pensions Minister Ros Altmann demanded that the Government take urgent action to support hard-up pensioners amid warnings that household bills could double this year

Baroness Altmann told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The problem for pensioners is that not being able to keep warm costs lives.

‘We’re not just talking about being a bit strapped for cash, we’re talking about health deterioration or death.’

Charity for the elderly, Age UK, branded the situation a ‘national emergency’. The charity’s research shows that every winter one old person dies every seven minutes from the cold in England and Wales.

The elderly are advised to keep bedrooms at 18C (64F) and other living areas at 21C (70F).

But there is growing concern that some may begin to turn off their heating even before the worst of the cold weather hits, in an effort to cut fuel bills.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said she will be writing to Ministers this week to press the need for urgent action.

‘I’ve not seen a threat like this to older people’s standards of living, this is unprecedented,’ she said.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said she will be writing to Ministers this week to press the need for urgent action

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said she will be writing to Ministers this week to press the need for urgent action

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said she will be writing to Ministers this week to press the need for urgent action

‘I don’t think it’s happened very often in history that prices have gone as mad as this in such a short space of time. And on top of this, inflation is starting to bite into people’s pensions.’

She said that the Government must ‘make a significant intervention’ rather than ‘the odd tenner here and there’ so that older people have the confidence to turn their heating on now.

She added: ‘We already hear from older people that when their energy bill falls on their doormat, they sit and look at it for a week before they get the courage to open it.’

Ms Abrahams added: ‘We know older people are already worried about the cost of energy. They’ll immediately start rationing heating from now because they’re worried about the bills they’ll receive.

‘People who genuinely can’t afford it are potentially putting their health at risk by taking those sorts of actions and not staying adequately warm.’

Baroness Altmann warned that even before the pandemic, a million pensioners were suffering from extreme fuel poverty.

She continued: ‘That means they already can’t afford their heating bills. I know of pensioners who have to sit in one room through the winter because they can’t afford to heat the rest of their home.’

Baroness Altmann said the Government needs to encourage more older people to use pension credits – which supplement poor retirees’ state pensions. She said: ‘Some 40 per cent of pensioners entitled to pension credit are not claiming it. That has been stuck at 40 per cent since 2010. That’s a disgrace.’

Source: | This article originally belongs to Daily Mail

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