Published on 28 February 2018 10:00 AM
Age Scotland is urging more than 100,000 Scots not to miss out on benefits as the "Beast from the East" sweeps the country.
Each year, millions of pounds worth of cold weather assistance goes unclaimed.
Four in 10 Scots (around 130,000 households) who are entitled to Pension Credits are not claiming the benefit, meaning that they could miss out on other help such as Cold Weather Payments.
These are paid automatically to those receiving certain benefits when the temperature in their area is zero degrees or lower for seven days in a row.
Many older people are not claiming the Winter Fuel Allowance, which is payable to everyone the winter following their 64th birthday. People receiving benefits may also be entitled to a Warm Home Discount, worth £140, through their energy supplier.
More than half of single pensioner households and four in 10 older couples are living in fuel poverty, defined as spending more than 10 per cent of their income on energy costs. Age Scotland's recent survey found that one in four older people with health conditions is struggling to pay their fuel bills.
The charity has already helped callers claim around half a million pounds worth of benefits through its Helpline, but says this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Adam Stachura, Age Scotland's Head of Policy and Communications, said: "We hear from older people around the country who are struggling to pay their fuel bills, and this extreme weather will clearly make this worse. Cold weather can have serious health implications, especially for those with existing conditions such as heart disease, respiratory problems or dementia.
"We'd urge every older person to check they are not missing out on extra help. No one should have to put their health at risk during cold weather or cut back on essentials such as food to pay their heating bills. If you're worried about yourself or someone else, then call our free Helpline for advice on 0800 12 44 222.
"People can also take simple steps to make sure they are warm and healthy when temperatures drop. Keep your living areas at at least 21 degrees C, and close doors and curtains to save heat. Make sure you wrap up warm, drink regular hot drinks and have at least one hot meal every day.
"If you have an older neighbour, friend or relative, then now is the perfect time to pop round and see if they need a little help, or just a chat and a cuppa if they are unable to leave their home."
⦁ The Scottish Government estimates that four in 10 people who are entitled to Pension credit are not claiming it.
⦁ People who receive Pension Credit and certain other benefits may be eligible for Cold Weather Payments between 1 November to 31 March each year. A payment of £25 is automatically made to those eligible in the coverage area of each weather station when the average temperature has been recorded as, or is forecast to be, 0 degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days.
For more information:
Call Age UK Advice: 0800 169 2081