Poorer pensioners facing 'heat or eat' dilemma

THE freezing temperatures that have left much of Britain under sheets of ice for the past two weeks have hit elderly people hard, charity chiefs warning that some of the poorest pensioners face the choice of "heat or eat" this winter.

A spokeswoman for the Yorkshire Community Foundations charities, Sally-Anne Greenfield, – working alongside the Yorkshire Post on its Communities in Need appeal – said many elderly people must decide whether to heat a single room using expensive gas fires or electric heaters, or buy food for their cupboards.

She is calling on wealthier households who have recently received a winter fuel payment from the Government to donate it to the Communities in Need Appeal.

She said: "Pensioner hardship is one of the key areas that is being targeted by the appeal, and there are many ways in you can help.

"In particular we would like to call on local people who, in the past couple of weeks, will have received a winter fuel payment.

"This is a universal state benefit given to everyone, regardless of income, so even quite wealthy households will benefit.

"For some it is vital, but for many they either don't want or don't need the payment and we would like to ask you to give all or part of it to our campaign.

"This will then mean that we can ensure this allowance is being used to help people who really need to combat fuel poverty."

Statistics suggest there are now 180,000 pensioners now living in poverty across Yorkshire – the equivalent to a city almost the size of York.

Charities have long warned that older people have found it difficult to find the money to heat their homes as fuel prices have soared over recent years. Trapped on fixed incomes, and with only a few pounds to spare each week from state pensions, pensioners are affected badly by any price rises by energy firms.

And Mrs Greenfield said that with recent temperatures among the lowest ever recorded at this time of year, older citizens are now being put at serious risk.

Donations to the appeal can potentially be match-funded 1 for 1 through the government's Grassroots Grants scheme.

Mrs Greenfield said a contribution of 500 to a local older people's group could help provide 200 hot water bottles, 100 food parcels or fund a luncheon club for 25 people for two weeks.