Fears for elderly as the winter bites

nbua-14-02-13 -fuelpoverty -  Fuel poverty affects more than a quarter of all High Peak households, according to a recent study.
nbua-14-02-13 -fuelpoverty - Fuel poverty affects more than a quarter of all High Peak households, according to a recent study.
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As winter temperatures begin to fall, concerns have been raised that elderly people in Eastwood and Kimberley could face a life or death decision to eat or heat their homes.

Figures from The Office of National Statistics (ONS) have revealed there was an enormous 36 per cent increase in winter deaths in the East Midlands region last year.

Now there are worries this winter could be just as tough for the local elderly with the cost of living high, including soaring energy bills.

The ONS figures reveal that last winter 2,700 elderly folk died in the East Midlands as they struggled to pay their bills. The previous year this figure stood at 1,980 – almost 1,000 less.

Sue Bagshaw is the manager at Eastwood Volunteer Bureau, which is working with the Advertiser on the Feed Our Families food bank campaign.

She said that a lot of elderly folk tell the service’s volunteer drivers that they are struggling to pay their bills.

“We obviously transport elderly people, and we have our befriending scheme as well,” said Sue. “They (the clients) do tell our drivers that it’s getting harder and harder to pay for gas and electric.

“They just haven’t got the money. Often I think they have to choose between food and heating and they choose food.”

Mrs Bagshaw said she was ‘astounded’ at hearing how much the death rate had increased.

Eastwood MP Gloria De Piero said she blamed the Government.

“I’m absolutely appalled at the figures. Quite frankly they are a disgrace and the Government should be ashamed,” she said.

“Many of these unnecessary deaths are caused by people living in homes that are far too cold because folk can’t afford to put the heating on and despite this, the Government, in my view, still refuses to stand up to the big energy companies.”

This week the Government said it planned to reduce energy bills by about £50 – but people have argued it is not enough.

Also this week the Red Cross started asking for food donations for the first time since World War Two and a group of national health experts said food poverty had become such a big problem it should be a ‘public health emergency’.