In a letter to the ministers for business and for pensions, Age UK said thousands of senior citizens were already feeling the pinch including those “who are too worried to use their oven and are living off soup and sandwiches instead; showering only every two days rather than daily; and constantly watching their smart meter and turning their heating off once their daily spending exceeds the meagre limit they have set”.
The charity’s director Caroline Abrahams said the elderly urgently needed reassurance they could afford to keep warm without going into debt.
“These huge energy price rises have come like a bolt from the blue for many older people on low incomes, for whom this winter is shaping up to be one of the most difficult and frightening they have experienced during their long lives,” she said.
“Even as the mortal risk from Covid-19 appears to be receding, the prospect of not having the funds to stay adequately warm seems to be replacing it. It’s a perfect storm.”
Campaigners have called for the 5pc VAT rate on heating bills to be scrapped, which would knock £100 off an annual bill of £2,000, although Boris Johnson has rejected the idea saying it would not benefit those most in need.
Other suggestions include widening the support for those on the lowest incomes, which the Government is understood to be considering.
This could include easing the criteria for who can apply for Cold Weather Payments and the Warm Home Discount scheme, which are currently only available to those who claim certain benefits such as pension credit.
A spokesman for the Government said it acknowledged people were facing pressures with the cost of living. He said existing support, worth £4.2bn, included help with heating bills, the council-administered household support fund and freezes to fuel duty.