“Whilst today’s announcement will be a welcome boost to the incomes of many households throughout Wales, we are very disappointed that the Welsh Government continues to exclude older people claiming Pension Credit from their Winter Fuel Support Scheme. It is unacceptable that older people living on the lowest incomes continue to be denied this crucial support.
“Over 86,000 older households in Wales are claiming Pension Credit and living on an income of only £177.10 a week for a single person or £270.30 for a couple. The continuing increase in the price of fuel is putting significant pressure on the incomes of these households, as well as the nearly 70,000 households who are eligible for Pension Credit but are not yet claiming what they are entitled to.
“As well as the hikes in fuel bills, older people are facing tough challenges in several other areas which is leading to a real cost of living crisis. This includes the increasing price of basic food staples, older workers facing the highest rate of redundancy of all age groups and many older people having to pay for their own health and social care due to delays caused by the pandemic or reduce their working hours to look after loved ones.
“We have both been contacted by older people who are anxious about the spiralling costs of fuel, and we are concerned that many will already be limiting their use of heating to cut costs. This will put them at risk of damaging their health, at a time when many older people are still recovering from the negative impacts of the pandemic. If older people are not supported sufficiently to maintain the use of heating that they desperately need, we will see more people requiring admission to hospital and sadly an increase in the numbers of older people dying due to the cold weather.
“The Welsh Government must urgently change the eligibility criteria for the Winter Fuel Support Scheme to ensure that older people claiming Pension Credit can access the financial support they need to keep themselves safe and warm this winter. Alongside this, the Welsh Government must also redouble its efforts to raise awareness of Pension Credit to ensure that as many older people as possible are claiming what they are legally entitled to.
“We are writing again to the Minister for Social Justice to ask her to reconsider the Welsh Government’s exclusion of older people from this financial support and hope that she will take the action necessary to ensure that no older person in Wales has to choose between whether to heat or eat this winter.”
Heléna Herklots CBE, Older People’s Commissioner for Wales
Vicki Lloyd, Chief Executive, Age Cymru