Elderly Britons Face Food Insecurity: Here’s How to Get Help

In an alarming trend, nearly a third of British seniors are sacrificing meals due to financial strain, according to new research. But help is available, and it’s vital for those affected or their loved ones to reach out.

Struggling to Afford Food

Recent studies have unveiled a distressing reality: almost one in three individuals over 60 have had to reduce their food intake to financially cope. Age UK, a leading charity, indicates that essentials like food and non-alcoholic beverages are consuming an increasingly large slice of the elderly’s post-tax income.

Unfortunately, when money is tight, food is often the only variable expense that can be reduced during financial hardships. The charity underscores an ongoing issue of malnutrition among the elderly, exacerbated not just by isolation and health issues, but now more pronouncedly by poverty.

A staggering 29% of over-60s, representing approximately 4.2 million people in the UK, are buying less food. Moreover, 39% express concerns about affording food in the future. Particularly alarming is that 40% of seniors in households earning under £20,000 per year are cutting back on food.

Voices of the Struggling Elderly

The predicament becomes more real through the voices of those experiencing it. One 71-year-old told Age UK, “I am very worried about winter… I have nothing else to cut back on except food.” Another revealed they only cook one substantial meal a day, scarcely using meat. These testimonies paint a stark picture of seniors compromising on food and essentials amidst rising living costs.

Where to Find Assistance

If you’re a pensioner facing these challenges or know someone who is, it’s crucial to seek help. Age UK encourages reaching out to their helpline at 0800 169 65 65, available every day from 8am to 7pm. Their team can guide you through the benefits you’re entitled to, such as pension credit, which guarantees a minimum weekly income of £201.05 for singles and couples alike.

Pension credit not only provides income support but also qualifies you for additional assistance with household bills. Applications can be made via phone, online, or by post, and you can even have a friend or family member apply on your behalf. Additionally, Age UK offers a free, confidential benefits calculator for a private estimate of potential entitlements.

Government’s Measures and Response

The government emphasises its commitment to supporting pensioners, citing a decrease in absolute poverty among this demographic since 2009/10. They highlight recent increases in the state pension and pension credit, additional winter support of up to £600 for those in need, and ongoing efforts to control inflation.

Moreover, the state pension and pension credit saw a substantial rise of 10.1% last April, and the Household Support Fund, exceeding £2 billion, is in place to assist with essential costs. The government also reassures its dedication to the state pension triple lock, promising annual reviews of benefits and pensions.

However, with the cost of living crisis deepening, Age UK is advocating for more extensive support, including extended cost of living payments, widened eligibility, increased Household Support Fund allocations, and adherence to the state pension triple lock promise.

The Unclaimed Billions

Despite the available help, many eligible for pension credit don’t claim it. In 2019-2020, a shocking £2.4 billion in pension credit and housing benefit remained unclaimed by older citizens. Age UK’s charity director, Caroline Abrahams, suggests a need for these benefits to be automatically allocated to eliminate the hurdle of complex application processes.

The Impending Winter Crisis

As winter approaches, there’s heightened concern. “Many [elderly people] will feel they have no choice but to ration their food and other groceries, potentially putting their health at risk,” Abrahams states. She calls for urgent, targeted government support to prevent a potential health crisis among the older population.

In these trying times, it’s crucial for older people and their families to be aware of the available support and to not hesitate in seeking assistance.