Heating Oil -1.5 million facing fuel poverty
Published on 18 January 2013 10:30 AM
Media contact: Mallary Gelb
Tel: 0203 033 1682
Out of hours: 07071 243 243
January 17 2013
An estimated 1.5 million older people who live in the countryside are struggling to keep warm because they live in areas off the gas grid and can't afford expensive heating oil, according to the charity Age UK.
In December, the cost of oil in some parts of the UK reached 70p a litre. Official figures show that the average price rose from just over 54 p a litre in July 2012 to 65 p in December 2012[i] -- representing a 20% increase, or over seven times the annual inflation rate.
In addition to the sharp price rises, as oil companies will only deliver a minimum of 500 litres of oil, users faced bills of at least £350 plus VAT - out of reach of many older people surviving on their pensions.
The disturbing figure comes as the winter's latest cold snap has descended on the UK with temperatures plummeting and the prospect of heating oil prices rising again, leaving those who are unable to keep warm at risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cold related illnesses.
Sales of heating oil are unregulated in the UK, giving consumers no protection against prices which are significantly higher than national grid gas available to people in urban areas. Yet, older people in rural areas are often among the UK's poorest and tend to live in old badly insulated buildings which require more heating.
Age UK is calling on competition regulators to monitor the industry and intervene if there is evidence of unfair pricing or poor sales practices to help make heating oil more affordable for those who rely on it.
It is also calling on the Government to prioritise making "off-grid" homes energy efficient.
Age UK's Charity Director General, Michelle Mitchell said, "Many of our poorest and most vulnerable older people live in the country and have little
choice but to use heating oil to keep warm. A significant number can't afford the hundreds of pounds they have to pay up front and simply do without, often, in the coldest months of the year . We know older people are three times more likely to suffer strokes if they do not keep warm. So it's just common sense that the Government makes sure they can afford to keep warm by ensuring pricing in the industry is fair."
Age UK research has shown that people living in the coldest homes are three times more likely to die from a preventable death than those living in warmer ones. Last winter more than 23,000 people aged 65 and over died from strokes and other cold related illnesses in the UK.
Several Age UKs around the country including West Cumbria and Northumberland are already working to support older people who are struggling to play for heating oil.
For more information or case studies of those affected by the high price of heating oil please contact Age UK's press office on the number above.
Notes to editors
For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.
Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life.
We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to well over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.
Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).
[i] Average Home Heating Oil price in the UK - Boiler juice.com