Category Archives: Money Matters

Complaining to energy suppliers


We’ve all heard people complaining about poor service from their energy companies. We’ve all read newspaper articles about inaccurate bills and unanswered queries. We’ve all seen the hefty fines handed to companies for failing customers.   In truth, the energy sector has not covered itself in glory handling consumer complaints.

But householders do not need to grin and bear it. Legal and other changes to consumer protection offer increased support to aggrieved customers. All the major energy companies are now answerable to an Ombudsman. But to take action, the Ombudsman needs to be satisfied that the consumer has followed due process. Continue reading

A great place to grow older?

Today, we launched our Agenda for Later Life 2015 report, Age UK’s annual assessment of how public policy is meeting the needs of older people. Here, Jane Vass, Head of Public Policy, discuss the findings of the report in light of the upcoming Spending Review. 

In the run up to what is likely to be one of the most challenging Spending Reviews of recent times, Agenda for Later Life, Age UK’s annual audit of how public policy is meeting the needs of our ageing population, highlights that older people are increasingly being thrown back on their own resources, as the public services on which they rely are being scaled back or withdrawn.

Each year, we track a number of key indicators, and this year shows progress in many areas but also the scale of the challenge facing us. Continue reading

Older people are still living in poverty and with growing inequality in later life

Our first blog post of the week looks at the findings from Age UK’s latest Chief Economist report. It focuses on the key economic aspects in the lives of many older people in the UK: inequality and poverty, and benefit take-up. 

Almost 60 years ago, Peter Townsend studied the lives of older people in East London and wrote:

The object of national assistance is largely to make up income, on test of means, to a subsistence level… A general definition of need is incorporated in its scale rates, and these are applied to individual circumstances, with certain discretionary disregards and allowances. The sums are intended to cover food, fuel and light, clothing, and household sundries, beside rent, and sometimes, after investigation, small additions are made for laundry, domestic help, or special diet. This definition of ‘subsistence’, on such evidence as exists, appears to be completely unrealistic.

You would be forgiven if, after reading Age UK’s latest Chief Economist Report, you concluded that not much has changed over all those years. Because, though the material aspects of the lives of older people in the country, whether in East London or East Belfast, have undeniably improved since then – thanks in a great part to the way initially ploughed by Eleanor Rathbone MP and the Old People’s Welfare Committee, Age UK’s predecessor, the current state of poverty among older people still looks dismal and grim as much as what it was like in Bethnal Green in yesteryear. Continue reading

Smart energy for all

Just over a month ago, Smart Energy GB published a consultation paper as part of its work to support the roll-out of smart meters in an inclusive and engaging manner.

In ‘Smart energy for all’, Smart Energy GB set out what it has learned from research about the potential difficulties which might challenge the programme amongst some sections of the population, and what it does not know and where it would welcome more evidence.

The consultation paper is thorough and comprehensive. The point is that here we have, within the next five years, the opportunity to really change the way the British public thinks about and uses energy, and we ought to get it right from the start.

What about older people 

Older households make up a third of the national total. We know that older households see advantages in understanding more about their energy use, so that they can use it with confidence to keep adequately warm, without worrying about unwelcome and unexpected bills.

The end of estimated bills, and the ending of meter readers’ visits, will be applauded.   But can the simple process of installing a new meter and a domestic meter display unit help older people to take maximum advantage from the new technology?   Continue reading