The cost-of-living crisis and a lack of long-term solutions means that serious challenges lie ahead for older people in Wales this winter, a new report has found.
The report, published by Care & Repair Cymru, titled ‘Older People in Wales: Poverty in Winter 2023-24’, reveals that despite government financial support the average Care & Repair client will be spending 19% of their income toward fuel and water bills this winter.
Chris Jones, CEO of Care & Repair Cymru, said: “From the onset of the cost-of-living crisis, we have seen more and more people struggling to keep on top of their energy bills, and unable to keep warm and safe in their homes. We do not accept that any older person should become ill because they live in a cold home. But long-term solutions are needed to ensure households can afford to keep warm, ultimately preventing cold-related illnesses and unnecessary hospital admissions.”
The findings show that 96% of households accessing Care & Repair’s energy advice service were identified as living in fuel poverty. Fuel poverty poses significant health risks, especially to those aged 75 and above, increasing the likelihood of respiratory problems, cardiovascular issues, falls, and hospitalisations.
While the state pension has increased in line with inflation, older citizens continue to face rising utility expenses. This places additional stress on already vulnerable households, raising concerns about escalating debts and the struggle to afford necessities.
Lasting solutions needed
The report goes on to highlight the limitations of taking short-term measures to address the financial burdens older people face, and Care & Repair Cymru are calling for lasting, comprehensive solutions.
Faye Patton, Policy Manager at Care & Repair Cymru, said: “While immediate government support has been a lifeline, it’s not a blueprint for lasting change. We need sustainable solutions that address the root causes of energy poverty among older people in Wales. This isn’t just about this winter or the next; it’s about breaking the cycle of fuel poverty and adopting long-term strategies. We must create an environment where the older generation can comfortably heat their homes without sacrificing their wellbeing.” Care & Repair Cymru proposes several long-term solutions: the introduction of social tariffs offering discounted energy price plans to vulnerable households; and a safety net grant for housing disrepair, which will tackle the hazardous state of many Welsh homes and significantly improve thermal efficiency.