Older people who are in or at risk of fuel poverty are the focus of a £1million partnership launched by the UK’s gas infrastructure companies with three national charities.
Age UK, Age Scotland and Age Cymru have signed up to the collaboration which involves Wales & West Utilities, as well as the other gas distribution networks (GDNs) SGN, Cadent, and Northern Gas Networks.
The campaign will look to ensure that older people in the UK are aware of and assisted to access the support services which help increase household income, including benefits checks. It will also provide information on how to use energy safely and efficiently at home.
Rising energy bills over the past 12 months have led to more people feeling worried about their ability to stay warm, safe and healthy at home.
Therefore, the four GDNs are helping each charity in their coverage area with resources, including funding for Benefits Advisers, who will help older people gain access to the benefits and monetary support they’re entitled to, potentially increasing their household income by up to £2,000 a year on average.
Staying connected to energy is extremely important for older people, many of which depend on vital medical equipment such as dialysis machines to manage long term health conditions. The funding, which has been provided through the Vulnerability and Carbon Monoxide Allowance (VCMA) by the energy industry regulator Ofgem, also allows the charities to assist older people join the Priority Services Register – ensuring they’ll receive extra support if they’re ever without their gas, water, or electricity supply.
Nigel Winnan, Customer & Social Obligations Strategy Manager, at Wales & West Utilities, said: “We are delighted to partner with other gas networks and the UK’s leading older people’s charities to help those customers who are the most vulnerable.
“We are committed to doing everything we can to support those most in need in our communities and by working with trusted partners we offer free support and advice to help with essential household costs.
“This partnership will help keep people safe and warm in their own homes all year round.”
Hannorah Lee, Director of Partnerships at Age UK, said: “This past winter was one of the most difficult many older people will have ever experienced. In January a massive 9.6 million older people were worried about being able to heat their homes and over 7 million were worried about affording other essentials such as food.
“At the same time, over £1.5 billion in benefits go unclaimed by older people every year. Thanks to funding from the UK GDNs, we can help older people to check their entitlements, potentially unlocking vital extra income that could help them get through the cost-of-living crisis. We encourage any older person who is worried about money to contact Age UK by calling its national advice line, free of charge, on 0800 169 65 65 (8am-7pm), visiting www.ageuk.org.uk/money, or contacting their local Age UK for free information and advice.”
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