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Last Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005, 13:04 GMT
South: Cold and old
Ian Paul
Ian Paul
The Politics Show South

Elderly person by an electric fire
Elderly people are vulnerable during cold weather

Jayne Halton and her husband Peter have been living in their new flat for nearly two years now. In all that time the boiler and the storage heaters have never worked properly.

With the cold weather coming on, they have taken to drinking cups of coffee in the local shopping centre to try and keep warm.

They are just two of the thousands of elderly people across the south who will be struggling to keep the cold at bay this winter.

And according to the Met Office there could be a lot of cold to keep at bay.

The recent blizzard conditions in the West Country could be just a foretaste of what the weathermen say could be the bitterest winter in a decade.

At the very worst people will die.

According to Age Concern, a staggering one elderly person per hour will die between now and March from preventable cold-related causes.

Inevitably, given the age profile of our region, many will be here in the South.

Possibly as many as 3,500, say Age Concern.

Margo Radbone
Margo Radbone feels the cold

Margo Radbone lives in the village of Tackley near Oxford: "I feel the cold terribly, as lots of old people do.

"If I had to choose, I would rather be hungry than cold. It's dreadful, it really is.

"Sometimes you feel as if you're made of ice inside, you just don't know what to do with yourself.

"I think a lot of old people are really suffering, I really do."

It is an issue that the government has addressed in the past.

They have introduced the fuel allowance of up to 200 (up to 300 if you are over 80).

There is the 10 Christmas bonus.

And then if the temperature drops to or below 0 for seven consecutive nights pensioners will also get an 8.50 cold weather payment sent to them automatically.

George and Ethel are maybe unusual in having a flat which is cold but which they can afford to heat.

For many other elderly people it is the cost of heating that is the real issue.

Despite the many benefits that the government has on offer.

Often that is because figuring out what you are entitled to is a bit confusing - some things are triggered automatically, others you need to actually ask for.

So it is perhaps not surprising, as Politics Show South has discovered, that as much as 1.42bn-worth of benefits goes unclaimed each year by pensioners.

Money that could help make Christmas a little warmer for some people this year.

Many pensioners argue that rather than having all the complicated different benefits, the money should be rolled up into a better state pension.

We want to hear what you think. Should pensioners' benefits be means tested?

Are we being too mean to the vulnerable this winter?

The Politics Show

Let us know what you think. Send us an email and we will put your points to the invited guests.

Join Peter Henley live from the Leys Linx Centre in Oxford on Sunday 11 December 2005 at Noon on BBC One.

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Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all emails will be published.


Politics from around the UK...

Lights 'won't go out' this winter
23 Nov 05 |  UK Politics
NHS gives winter weather warning
30 Nov 05 |  Scotland
11 Sep 05 |  England


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