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Bleak winter for OAPs
By Tim Saunders
ELDERLY people in Dorset could be staring death in the face this winter by turning off their heating to save money, say organisations for the elderly in the county.
Gill Birkett, office manager for the Dorset Energy Advice Line, said: "We're worried that the rising fuel costs will mean elderly people will turn their heating off leading to hypothermia and ultimately death."
Industry experts have warned that household gas and electricity bills could soar by up to 40 per cent this winter.
Mrs Birkett added: "Rising fuel prices are a big concern and if we're not careful it could become a huge problem because pensions aren't increasing at the rate energy bills are.
"Free insulation which helps cut bills is available to those receiving benefits, on disability benefit or those over 70. Cavity wall insulation will save 20 per cent of heat loss and loft insulation will help, too."
Kathie Pearce, from Bournemouth Housing Society for the Elderly, said: "It's a miserable situation. If there's a bad winter there's going to be problems.
"We've invested £7m to ensure our 171 properties meet all heating and insulation requirements. Our residents live in warm well-insulated buildings. No one is cold with us.
"We have communal gas boilers which means we can negotiate cheaper fuel rates for our residents.
"The UK has the highest winter death rates in Europe which is awful and in the south west there are above average levels of fuel poverty.
"What are the elderly to do? Stop eating or turn the heating off?"
Broadway Park Housing Ltd owns 200 properties mainly in Poole and its chief executive Fiona Ferenczy said: "We offer help and advice where we can on how to save money on fuel.
"Electric storage heaters can be efficient if run on economy 7 and 10 settings.
"We're currently installing efficient heaters in our properties, changing from electric to gas heating because gas is easier to use."
Kate Jopling, head of public affairs at Help the Aged, said: "As the cost of energy spirals, more older people are facing difficult choices about whether to pay fuel bills or cut back on food and clothing.
"In a rich country such as ours, this is unacceptable.
"Help the Aged has teamed up with Friends of the Earth to pursue a judicial review of the government's current fuel poverty policies."
Mudeford pensioner Jean Clarke, 75, was angered by the rising fuel prices.
She said: "I think the news is outrageous. Us pensioners have enough to try and budget for.
"We do get an allowance but unless that goes up too, it'll be a dent in all of our pockets. It's definitely a worry."
Teresa Patterson, 69 said: "With all the profits you hear British Gas and others making, it's ridiculous that prices are going up as much as 40 per cent."
And Robert Gray, 72, from Highcliffe added: "Me and my wife will be buying extra blankets, I think."
Where to get help and advice
Dorset Energy Advice Line 0800 9750166 deac.co.uk
Help and Care (covers Bournemouth and Poole) 01202 432288
Anchor Staying Put (covers Christchurch) 01202 862765
7:00pm Thursday 19th June 2008