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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 December 2006, 18:39 GMT
'They should be getting more help'
Man in front of fire (generic)
A health expert has warned that the elderly could suffer due to fuel costs
Amid warnings over the danger to elderly people struggling to pay rising fuel bills, a Devon woman describes her pensioner parents' worries about heating their home.

Anne McKay told the BBC News website that her mother and father, both 81, had been devastated to find out this year's winter fuel costs allowance would be nearly half the value of last year's payment.

They are to receive 150 each, the amount for a joint household.

Last year, her mother received 300 and her father, then under 80, received 200. This was thanks to a one-off additional payment from the government.

Mrs McKay said this year's allowance would leave a "huge hole" in her parents' finances.

"They are on a fixed income and this is really going to affect them - they were devastated when they found out," she said.

"The government should give the same as last year. If they are saying they want to help people with their fuel bills, well these have gone up in the last year yet their assistance has been cut in half - this is totally illogical."

"When we queried the amounts we were told that last year was a special one-off payment."

Mrs McKay said her parents were like many elderly people who worried about bills.

It is not right, they should not have to worry about keeping warm
Anne McKay

"On the news today there were suggestions that old people should put on a hat to keep warm and wear extra clothing - you shouldn't have to wear outdoor clothing indoors.

"The generation we're talking about have fought in the war and spent their lives contributing to this country. Now they are reaching old age they should be getting more help, not less."

Rod Griffiths of the Faculty of Public Health has warned that that the lives of thousands of elderly people are at risk because they cannot afford to heat their homes.

Mrs McKay said the only saving grace had been the milder winter so far. But she added: "If it gets colder it really will affect them and so many others.

"It is not right, they should not have to worry about keeping warm."

She estimated that her parents' fuel costs had doubled in the last year.

"It makes you wonder what it going to be the last straw for them," she said.

'Better off'

She supports calls from charity Age Concern which wants a 100 rise in the winter fuel payment.

Despite rising gas and electricity bills, however, ministers say there will be no rise in this year's winter pay-out.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said pensioners' incomes were "higher than they have ever been".

He said the government was "proud of its record in tackling pensioner poverty" and as a result of changes since 1997, average pensioner households were now 1,400 a year better off.


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