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Fuel Poverty News

12 pensioners could die every hour due to cold weather
6 Jan 09

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Britain’s biggest older people's organisation, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC), has warned that 12 pensioners could die every hour during the latest drop in temperatures sweeping the country and has called on the government to take immediate action to tackle the rising number of cold related deaths amongst the country’s elderly.

The call comes as the Met Office warned that Britain could see temperatures fall to -10 degrees over the coming week, with Shropshire, Hereford, Worcester, the West Midlands and Wales being worst affected.

The NPC’s claim is based on the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, which show the excess winter death rate between December 2007 and March 2008 in England and Wales was 25,300. This represents a seven per cent increase on last year’s figure of 23,740.

Over a three month winter period; this is the equivalent to 12 pensioners an hour or 281 older people dying every day of cold-related illnesses.

Joe Harris, NPC general secretary said: "Since 1997, we have lost over 260,000 pensioners during the winter months because of cold related illnesses, yet the government seems incapable of acting. No other section of our society is so vulnerable and treated so badly. Pensioners see rising fuel bills and are constantly worried about whether or not they can afford to put their heating on.”

“Up to 3m pensioner households are currently spending more than 10% of their income on fuel bills, and are living in fuel poverty. What these people need now is more money – in the form of the winter fuel allowance so that they can avoid having to decide whether to heat or eat. Energy efficiency schemes won’t help them pay their bills this month and neither will they prevent tens of thousands pensioners dying from the cold this winter.”

“All older people need to be reassured that they will not be financially punished for keeping warm in winter. The government must give them confidence that they will be able to pay their bills by raising the winter fuel allowance to at least £500 for every household, introducing an industry-wide reduced social tariff for older customers and forcing the energy companies to pass on reductions in prices.”

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Source: National Pensioners Convention