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Last Updated: Monday, 24 October 2005, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
Cold 'kills eight OAPs each hour'
Snow scene
The Met Office has warned of the coldest winter in a decade
Eight pensioners will die every hour during the winter from a cold-related illness, a charity has claimed.

The Met Office has predicted that Britain could be facing one of the coldest winters in a decade.

Age Concern said more than 20,000 people over 65 across the UK will die between December and March.

It is calling for a rise in the basic state pension but the Department of Work and Pensions says its winter fuel allowance helps with heating costs.

The government has identified fuel poverty as a major cause of death among those who are unable or cannot afford to heat their homes properly.

There is a payment of between 100 and 200 for all households with pensioners over 60 and an additional payment of up to 100 for the over-80s to help with the "costs of keeping warm".

Stephen Timms, the minister for Pensions Reform, also said there were other programmes that the government runs to help assist pensioners and other vulnerable people.

"The government is spending nearly 8bn more on pensioners, due to its tax and benefit changes since 1997, than would have been provided under an earnings link alone," he said.

National 'scandal'

According to Age Concern, the UK has one of the highest rates of winter deaths in Europe with older people at greater risk of illnesses such as pneumonia.

More needs to be done for older people during the winter months
Gordon Lishman, Age Concern

The charity said high heating costs, low housing standards and incomes are to blame.

Those most at risk tend to be pensioners living alone, it added.

"It's a national scandal that so many older people over 65 are put at risk every winter," said Age Concern director-general Gordon Lishman.

"More needs to be done for older people during the winter months so that they can heat their homes adequately without worrying about the cost."

Age Concern is calling on the basic state pension to be increased to at least 109 a week.

Its calculations on the number of deaths were made from Office for National Statistics figures for winter 2003-2004.

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20 Oct 05 |  Scotland
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