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More than one million pensioners are just 200 away from going into debt
18:49 GMT, 23 December 2012
Receiving a surprise bill of just 200 would be enough to push more than a million pensioners into debt, a charity warned last night.
A study by Age UK has found that the combination of rising fuel bills and plummeting savings is taking its toll on older people.
They estimate that 1,245,120 elderly people could not cope if presented with a surprise bill of 200.
Some 1,245,120 elderly people could not cope if hit with a 200 surprise bill, a study by Age UK has revealed
It means that more and more pensioners will have to choose between heating and eating over the Christmas period.
Michelle Mitchell, the charity’s director general, said: ‘Many older people are living hand-to-mouth and dreading the day when the cooker breaks down or energy prices rise again.’
Sally West, policy officer at Age UK, said: ‘This is the time of year when many people start to think about the cost of turning up the heating when they want to buy Christmas presents for their grandchildren.
‘It is often very difficult for them because they only just have enough income to get by. When the boiler or cooker breaks down then it could tip them over the edge.
‘They start to “make do” and that really means cutting back on the essentials of food and heat and clothing. They may do things such as only using one ring on the cooker.’
The basic state pension is only 107.45 a week and, although extra financial support is available, around 5.5billion a year goes unclaimed.
The basic pension is only 107.45 a week and, although there is extra financial support, around 5.5billion a year goes unclaimed
Many are eligible for a 33 a week top-up and potential help with council tax bills.
But the charity said many pensioners are not aware they are eligible or are put off by the complicated process of claiming.
Ms West said: ‘It is an enormous amount to go unclaimed. For many it is simply that they are not aware they are eligible but some are put off by the process of claiming.’