A charity chief has called for long-term measures to support people facing the choice between paying their energy bills and eating a square meal.

The head of Age UK in Westminster was speaking after a visit by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to the charity's Beethoven Centre in Queen's Park on February 4.

The visit came after the government announced a £200 discount off energy bills, to be repaid over five years, along with a £150 council tax rebate for most households, which will not need to be repaid.

Mehfuz Ahmed, CEO at Age UK Westminster, said: “Older People enjoyed meeting and talking to the chancellor, and took the opportunity to explain difficulties they were experiencing with the rise of the cost of energy.

"They appreciated the recent announcement of £200 to support the energy rise, but the amount is not sufficient to meet not just the cost of rising energy bills but cost of living too.

"Older people also want a longer-term support plan where they don't have to repay.”

Ham & High: Chancellor Rishi Sunak visited Age UK Westminster's Beethoven Centre in Queen's ParkChancellor Rishi Sunak visited Age UK Westminster's Beethoven Centre in Queen's Park (Image: SIMON WALKER HM Treasury)

Launching the measures, Mr Sunak said: "Right now, I know the number one issue on people’s minds is the rising cost of living.

"That’s why the government is stepping in with direct support that will help around 28 million households with their rising energy costs over the next year.

"We stood behind British people and businesses throughout the pandemic and it’s right we continue to do that as our economy recovers in the months ahead."

Ham & High: Chancellor Rishi Sunak visited Age UK Westminster's Beethoven CentreChancellor Rishi Sunak visited Age UK Westminster's Beethoven Centre (Image: SIMON WALKER HM Treasury)

Age UK wants the government to go further, by removing the 5% VAT rate on energy bills until at least the end of 2022, and providing a larger £500 one-off payment to those who qualify for the Cold Weather Payment."

The charity said in a statement: "We can’t let a situation arise in which older people are so worried about unaffordable energy bills that they put their health at risk by turning off their heating and not keeping their homes sufficiently warm."

Age UK's information guide, Winter Wrapped Up, which is available via www.ageuk.org.uk or as a paper copy by calling the free national advice line on 0800 169 65 65.

To seek support, and help accessing support, contact Age UK Westminster on 020 3004 5610, by emailing enquiries@ageukwestminster.org.uk or at www.ageuk.org.uk/westminster