One in 25 elderly people ‘live alone without central heating in some areas’
One in 25 older people living alone in some areas of England and Wales have no central heating, new analysis suggests.
Barrow-in-Furness and Gwynedd top the list of local authorities with at least 4% of one-person households aged 65 and over in this position.
Overall, more than 66,000 over-65s across the two nations are likely to be living alone without central heating, according to analysis of census 2021 data by the PA news agency.
Age UK described the findings as being “of tremendous concern” and warned of “potentially serious consequences” for older people’s health and wellbeing.
Some 11 local authority areas recorded at least 4% of people aged 65 and over living alone with no central heating.
Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria had the highest proportion at 5.4% (262 people), followed by Gwynedd Wales (4.6% or 401 people), Portsmouth (4.5% or 498), and Pendle in Lancashire (4.4% or 237).
London boroughs Waltham Forest, Lambeth and Westminster were also among the highest areas, with 4.3% (371 people), 4.1% (425) and 4.0% (407) respectively.
Having no central heating is one of the household characteristics used as an indicator of deprivation.
There were 3.1 million one-person households aged 65 and over in England and Wales on March 21 2021, the day of the census, and of those 2.1% – 66,027 – had no central heating.
The PA analysis also found that more than 100 local authority areas had at least two-fifths of older people living alone who are disabled – another indicator of deprivation.
The definition of disabled used by the census is people who have assessed their day-to-day activities as limited by long-term physical or mental health conditions or illnesses.
While Blaenau Gwent had the highest proportion of disabled older people living alone – 50.7% or 2,288 people – it was among the areas with the lowest proportion of older people living alone without central heating, at 0.8% or 36 people.
County Durham, North East Derbyshire and Hart in Hampshire all had the lowest proportion of lone older people without central heating, at 0.7%.
After Blaenau Gwent, the areas with the highest percentage of disabled older people living alone were Knowsley (49.7% or 4,269 people) and Liverpool (49.1% or 13,256 people).
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at older people’s charity Age UK told PA: “Having limited money in later life really impacts day-to-day living, exacerbating feelings of loneliness and disconnection from society.
“These figures are of tremendous concern, as older people lacking central heating often find it very difficult to stay warm during the winter months with potentially serious consequences for their health and wellbeing.
“Living alone can make this situation worse as it means that one person’s income has to stretch further to cover the fixed costs of heating a home, and it can, in some cases, lead to social isolation, which can have additional negative consequences.”
Ms Abrahams called on the UK Government to “make sure that it is prepared for next winter”.
She added: “Expanding central heating access and providing suitable alternatives to keep older people warm will be absolutely key.”
When looking at the proportion of older people living alone in one-bedroom accommodation, the local authorities with the highest figures are all in London, with Westminster top of the list (52.4% or 5,272 people), followed by Camden (48.7%) and Hackney (46.9%).
Southampton (34.6%), Brighton & Hove (33.7%) and Portsmouth (30.7%) have the highest proportion for areas outside London.
Age UK said anyone who is struggling, or their concerned families and friends, can contact its free Age UK advice line on 0800 169 65 65 which is open every day from 8am until 7pm.
Labour’s shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said: “These figures are deeply concerning. No person in Britain should have to live in a cold home, and it is a disgrace that this is happening under Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives.
“Labour would launch a national Warm Homes Plan to upgrade every home that needs it, so that every family can have the warmth they need and cheaper energy bills.
“And with our mission to make Britain a clean energy superpower, we will cut bills for good.”
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The percentage will rise dramatically when new gas boilers are banned and spare parts run out to repair existing ones.