Around 4.5m pensioners have been forced to stay in one heated room in their homes to save on fuel costs, according to Help the Aged and British Gas.
A survey for the organisations, who have formed a partnership to protect older people from fuel poverty, found over one-third of pensioners sometimes stayed or lived in one room because they could not afford to heat the rest of their homes. The problem was found to have got worse, with an estimated extra 2m pensioners taking these measures compared to last year.
It was also found that one in four pensioners kept warm by wrapping up in blankets and staying in bed, compared to one in seven last year. Additionally, it was estimated that nearly 6.5m pensioners would be forced to turn down their heating to save money this winter.
Help the Aged and British Gas called for the government to ensure automatic payment of benefits to pensioners, with up to £5bn currently going unclaimed.
Partnership spokesperson Mervyn Kohler said: “This is a damning indictment of the government’s approach to cutting fuel poverty and it is time that it started to take its targets seriously.”
Last month, Help the Aged and Friends of the Earth lost a judicial review brought against the government’s expected failure to meet its statutory target of ending fuel poverty for vulnerable households, including pensioners, by 2010.
Under the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000, the government must produce and implement a strategy to meet the target, and the associated target of ending fuel poverty for all by 2016, as far as is “reasonably practicable”.
Help the Aged said the High Court had ruled that the government’s duty was to implement its strategy, but judges did not comment on the quality of the strategy, which the charity claimed was out of date.
Fuel poverty occurs when a household spends more than 10% of its disposable income on keeping warm.