It’s a hard time of year for many as they struggle to keep warm this winter amidst the cost of living crisis. And the effect is even more profound for those struggling alone and in need of care.
The Telegraph shared an article this month about a terminal cancer patient who simply cannot afford to heat her own home, who has turned off her boiler despite the bitter cold. She sums it up perfectly when she says that, “The very last thing a dying person needs is to be crippled by cold, too scared to switch on the heating.” So what is the government doing to help?
Proposals have been denied to provide and Emergency Energy Tariff for those most in need, and a Warm This Winter initiative is campaigning for the government to “put vulnerable, disabled people, the elderly, and those with medical conditions first rather than condemning them to living in cold damp homes.”
From 1st January 2024, Ofgem have confirmed that the average household’s energy bill will increase by 5% from current prices, making winter this year even more of a struggle than last year’s ‘catastrophic winter’, which was criticised heavily by the report from Age UK.
It outlined how older patients who had become seriously unwell were badly let down, with scenes in hospital emergency departments on television that we hoped never to see. It found that the proportion of older people feeling supported to manage their health condition had fallen by almost a fifth since 2017, and that one in five of those aged 80+ had unmet needs for social care. It summarised by recognising that it wouldn’t be long before the next winter was upon us and that it was imperative that it didn’t happen again.
Energy price hikes have therefore come at the worst possible time, with bills going up just as winter bites hard amidst the wider cost of living crisis. Charities are becoming involved, with the elderly being urged to check for unclaimed benefits or discounts. Those forced to dip into savings last year are left without a safety net this winter, with research from Independent Age finding that one in four older people (24%) had to rely on savings last winter to help cover daily living costs, including higher heating bills and soaring supermarket prices. Friends of the Elderly have also launched a winter appeal, fundraising to pay for grants for essentials such as winter clothing, warm bedding, food and heating bills.
With increased costs hitting so hard on the basics of everyday living, the struggle to afford a quality of care in later life is more prevalent than ever. We need to act as a society to ensure that everyone has access to effective and affordable adult social care, enabling a dignity of living that begins with the core essentials such as warmth through the winter months year on year.