Budget 2021: Experts outline state pension changes
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With energy bills skyrocketing in the UK and massive energy companies such as Bulb falling into administration, many households will be looking for vital benefits to make ends meet this winter. Despite the perceived wide variety of schemes available, experts are cautioning the public, the Government and energy firms that they may not meet the needs of those living on the state pension. Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk , Rosemary Macdonald, CEO of UK Community Foundations, outlined what fuel poverty is and how it is impacting those most in need of support.
Ms Macdonald explained: "Fuel poverty is when somebody has insufficient funds to heat their home.
"Normally, they’ve got an income of less than £18,600 pounds a year and they’ve probably got a house which is low energy rating. People in fuel poverty will be people with poor homes plus low incomes.”
According to National Energy Action (NEA), 8,500 people across the UK die each year from living in a cold house.
Fuel poverty fears as support ‘not enough’ for widows living on just £8,000 state pension (Image: GETTY)
While there are benefits and schemes available to vulnerable people in need of support through the winter months, such as the Winter Fuel Payment, the Warm Home Discount and the Cold Weather Payment, Ms Macdonald believes more needs to be done.
The fuel expert said these schemes do help, however it’s not enough. She said: “We’ve come across widows who would apply to us and had an income of £8,000 a year, which is not very much when you’re just surviving on a state pension .
Ms Macdonald also discussed how the cost of electricity is a concern. She said: “An awful lot of people who are poor are on key metres for their electricity.
"Rural housing stock is way worse than the city and a lot of them are surviving with oil central heating. When you’ve got to buy a whole tank of oil, it can cost a huge amount of money and people don’t necessarily have the cash in hand to do that."
In her analysis of the UK's energy crisis, the fuel expert outlined what needs to be done to prevent poverty from becoming a reality for even more people this Christmas.
Ms Macdonald said: "I think it would really help if the gas companies didn’t put their prices up.
"One of the things they’re doing, say when your company goes under, is when you switch to a new supplier, you’re not necessarily going to be on a good tariff."
Fuel poverty is on the rise, according to experts (Image: GETTY)
"The other thing is the cost of electricity. An awful lot of people who are poor are on key metres for their electricity.
"They’re already paying a poverty premium for those keys, it’s already more expensive to buy the electricity through a key metre.
"The fuel companies need to keep their prices where they are not raised, certainly during this winter, because of the impact of Covid, Brexit and job losses and everything else, there’s multiple factors coming down the pipeline.
"Obviously increasing the benefits payments would be helpful. They did have an extra £20 a week in Universal Credit for people during Covid. If they could have maintained that for a bit longer that would help."
UK Community Foundations is a national network of 47 community foundations, which have recently launched a 'Surviving Winter' campaign to help vulnerable people survive the coming months, including those on the state pension.
Furthermore, Ms Macdonald elaborated on how exactly the 'Surviving Winter' campaign will operate across its sites around the nation.
She added: "This is where the beauty of 'Surviving Winter' comes in because all the people who don’t need their Winter Fuel Payment give it to the community foundations or another charity of their choice.
"Then that money is redistributed out to the people in need, which is super helpful."
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