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Two million older households will be unable to cover their essential spending this year, warns Age UK

By: Age UK
Published on 11 May 2022 12:01 AM

Two million older households[i] will have insufficient income to cover their essential spending this year[ii], with almost half of these (960,000) living in poverty or just above the poverty line and/or in receipt of benefits, according to the latest analysis by Age UK.[iii]

The Charity estimates that the poorest older households[iv] will need to drastically increase the percentage of their net income spent on essential goods and services from 67% in 2021-22 to 79% in 2022-23 due to higher costs of living.[v]

For older people, essential spending covers spending on housing (rent/mortgage), Council Tax, utility bills, food and drinks, communications in the home (i.e. telephone, mobile, internet access) and transport (taxis, vehicle running costs such as fuel and repairs and maintenance).  The Charity is deeply concerned that, for those living on low and modest incomes, there will be no wiggle room to meet other expenses – and the situation will be worse still for those with disabilities or ill-health who have higher energy needs.

That’s why Age UK is calling for immediate government action to help all those who need it. The Charity is urging the Government to increase benefits and the State Pension in line with inflation to help all those on a low income – irrespective of age – who are facing unprecedented hardship as prices soar. It’s also calling for a one-off payment of £500 for those on the lowest incomes to mitigate the impact of energy price increases.

Recent ONS figures[vi] show the proportion of older people reporting an increase in their cost of living over the previous month has been steadily increasing since November 2021.  Around nine in 10 people aged 50 to 69 (90%) and 70 or over (89%) reported an increase in their cost of living over the previous month, when asked in March 2022. This compares to around seven in 10 (71%) people of the same age reporting an increase in their cost of living over the previous month, when asked in November 2021.

Among those aged 70+ who reported an increase in their cost of living, the most common reasons given were rises in the price of food shopping (96%), gas or electricity bills (80%) and in the price of fuel (81%).  In response to this, over-70s are:

  • spending less on non-essentials (51%)
  • cutting back on non-essential journeys in their vehicle (47%)
  • using less energy at home (45%)
  • shopping around (40%)
  • spending less on food shopping and essentials (26%)
  • using savings (21%)

A gentleman in his late-80s told Age UK how rising costs will affect him this year: “I will have to cancel my carer - I prefer to be warm and dirty than clean and cold.”

Rachel, a carer for her husband, commented: My husband has advanced Alzheimer’s, is totally bedbound, doubly incontinent and my daughter and I care for him completely at home.  He has to be washed and changed at least three times a day and consequently my washing machine and dryer are permanently in use.  We have to keep the heating on most of the time and increases will make an enormous difference to our expenses, but we have no other choice because of my husband’s health.”

A couple in their mid-70s said: When it’s cold, we go to bed much earlier to keep warm. We used to bathe daily but this will now be cut to twice a week.  I think this says it all, we simply cannot afford to pay these rip-off prices anymore.  What's the point of life?”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: Our new analysis shows the brutal impact that rocketing prices are having on our older population and lays bare the desperate situation facing two million pensioners this year, if the Government fails to act. I’m astonished that the bad news about prices keeps rolling in but the Government continues to sit on its hands, and from what we hear many older people are surprised and disappointed too. There must be more that Ministers can do to help.

“Significant numbers of older people are already struggling, and the Bank of England was crystal clear last week that it’s only going to get worse in the months to come. For older people on low fixed incomes, relying solely on their State Pension and benefits, it’s a terrifying prospect because there are simply no more cuts they can make. They need concrete support now and without determined government intervention they are at risk of deep hardship like nothing we’ve seen in this country for many years.

“That’s why we’re calling for the Government to urgently increase benefits and the State Pension in line with inflation to help all those on a low income – irrespective of age – who will otherwise be in deep trouble as prices continue to rise. A one-off payment of £500 to those on the lowest incomes would also help enormously to mitigate the impact of energy price increases.”

As part of Age UK’s ‘It Doesn’t add up’ campaign, the Charity is urging older people to complete a short survey to explain how the rising cost of living is affecting them.  They will use the evidence to press the Government for more financial support.  To take part, please click here.

Age UK is here to help and is urging anyone who is struggling to pay their bills, to get in touch for a full benefits check in case they are one of the many who are missing out on vital benefits such as Pension Credit, which opens the door to a wide range of other financial support.[vii] People can call Age UK’s Advice Line on freephone 0800 169 65 65, contact their local Age UK office, or visit www.ageuk.org.uk.

To make a claim for Pension Credit, people should call the Pension Credit claim line on 0800 99 1234 or visit www.gov.uk/pension-credit/how-to-claim.

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Last updated: May 11 2022

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Notes to editors:

[i] Older households are defined as households with at least one person aged 60 or over.

[ii] 2022-23

[iii]Age UK analysis of Living Cost & Food Survey 2019-20. Figures projected to 2022. Spending patterns are assumed to be the same as those in 2019-20. Prices of items are changed in line with ONS inflation output figures for the years to 2021-22, and then by 9-10% to the year 2022-23 for all items except for energy that are increased by the rise in the energy price cap of 54% in April 2022 and an assumed rise of 40% in October 2022. Household income are changed in line with output data (to 2021-22) and then forecast figures (to 2021-22) and then 3.1% for households whose main source of income is benefits and 4.42% for other households (to 2022-23). 

[iv] By poorest older households we are referring to those older households with the lowest household income after-tax (i.e. those in the lowest income decile).

[v] Age UK analysis of Living Cost & Food Survey 2019-20. Figures projected to 2022. Spending patterns are assumed to be the same as those in 2019-20. Prices of items are changed in line with ONS inflation output figures for the years to 2021-22, and then by 9-10% to the year 2022-23 for all items except for energy that are increased by the rise in the energy price cap of 54% in April 2022 and an assumed rise of 40% in October 2022. Household income are changed in line with output data (to 2021-22) and then forecast figures (to 2021-22) and then 3.1% for households whose main source of income is benefits and 4.42% for other households (to 2022-23). 

[vi] Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2022. Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain: Household finances. Datasets: 19 November 2021 to 1 April 2022. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandwellbeing/datasets/coronavirusandthesocialimpactsongreatbritainhouseholdfinances.

[vii] Those in receipt of Pension Credit, which can be backdated for three months and tops up the weekly income of a single pensioner to £182.60 or a pensioner couple to £278.70, (or higher in some circumstances) could also be entitled to the following:

  • A Cold Weather Payment of £25, paid automatically when the average temperature is 0°C or below over seven consecutive days
  • £140 off electricity bill thorough the Warm Home Discount Scheme, if eligible
  • A free TV licence (if also over-75)
  • Free NHS dental treatment and help towards the cost of glasses and travel to hospital
  • Help with Council Tax
  • Help with rent
  • Cheaper phone and home broadband deals
  • Reduced water bills
  • An extra amount of Pension Credit for some carers worth up to £37.70 a week.

For more information

Contact the Age UK Media team on 020 3033 1430 during office hours (Mon-Fri 08:30-17:30) or for out-of-hours media support please email media@ageuk.org.uk 

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