Saturday, 2 December 2006

Helping the elderly through this winter

On the way up to Stourbridge this morning I was listening to the reports from Age Concern that the winter fuel payments will not go nearly far enough towards meeting heating bills this year. This is something that has worried me since the fuel prices hiked up this summer.

Older people often feel the pinch of Labour taxes more than any other group. On top of the pensions crisis, council tax and fuel rises hit them far harder than many of the rest of us - as these bills are often such a large percentage of their spending. I did like the Tory policy in the last election that every household of over 65 year olds would automatically get a 50% discount on their council tax. This seemed to me a very simple way of putting more money in older people's purses.

However we are stuck where we are this winter as Gordon Brown has signalled no intention of additional financial support. Age Concern make a lot of useful suggestions. Some are very simple, for example changing to energy saving light bulbs in order to safe fuel bills. However again these are an expensive investment for many on lower incomes. There is also the option to shop around for cheaper gas and electricity. Surfing the web I find switching to an "online" tariff can save over 20% of your fuel bills but lots of older people aren't so internet aware. Perhaps the fuel providers should be encouraged to make simpler fuel discounts for older people? Age concern publishes some good advice which you can find on www.ageconcern .co.uk. Help the Aged has a list of “top ten tips” but I cant get their website to work tonight!

Many of my older friends are incredibly good at making those pennies stretch and we should all make sure that we are helping them this winter. When I was at school we were encouraged to do “granny visiting” as community work but I understand that this has lapsed in many areas. I’m not sure what the older people thought but I know we all benefited from their wisdom and kindness.

Stourbridge was great. A packed room and interviews by Julie Kirkbride MP for Bromsgrove. There was a very positive sense of working together by all present.

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