OAPs going without food to pay fuel bills

As winter temperatures begin to fall, concerns have been raised that elderly people in Ilkeston could face a life or death decision to eat or heat their homes.

Figures from The Office of National Statistics (ONS) have revealed there was an enormous 36 per cent increase in winter deaths in the East Midlands region last year.

Now there are worries this winter could be just as tough for the local elderly with the cost of living high, including soaring energy bills.

The ONS figures reveal that last winter 2,700 elderly folk died in the East Midlands as they struggled to pay their bills. The previous year this figure stood at 1,980 – almost 1,000 less.

One Ilkeston pensioner, Sandra Jones, said her energy provider has ‘ruined Christmas.’

Mrs Jones, a widow, told the Advertiser: “I daren’t have my Christmas tree out and lit up because of what the bill will be.

“Christmas is ruined.”

She added: “My fuel bills are higher than ever and it is a struggle to pay them.

“I don’t have atumble dryer, electric kettle or cooker, I don’t have a microwave and still my bills are reidicukously expensive.

“I use electric heaters because it’s the most affordable way to keep warm but even then I only have them on low, if I had them on full I couldn’t afford to live.

“I don’t know how they get away with charging so much, especially to older people.

“We don’t go about switching and changing and finding the best price so we are ripped off.”

Chair of Ilkeston Age Concern, Brian Lucas, echoed Mrs Jones’ concerns.

He said: “A lot of the people that we represent go to th luncheon clubs we run in the area, so we know that they are getting a hot meal in warm conditions at least once a week as well as companionship.

“With heating bills as they are and news that there is no real chance that they will come down it is a real worry for people.

“Heating bills take up a considerable amount of people’s income and that is especially difficult for people on a fixed income like pensioners.

“I personally think a lot of older people are not heating their homes properly and they are putting their health at risk which has a knock on effect on other areas, like health services.”