Fuel poverty in Hampstead and Highgate leading to ‘war-time rationing’ among elderly

Actor Sir Derek Jacobi has called for wealthy pensioners to donate their winter fuel allowance to ch

Actor Sir Derek Jacobi has called for wealthy pensioners to donate their winter fuel allowance to charity. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

More than 1,000 households in Hampstead and Highgate have been forced to choose between heating their homes or living under the poverty line – with charity workers seeing elderly residents forced into levels of rationing not seen since the Second World War.

The shocking figures have led actor Sir Derek Jacobi, who has just launched a winter appeal as patron of Age UK Camden, to ask wealthier pensioners to return or donate their winter fuel allowance in a bid to help those struggling.

The 75-year-old, who lives in Belsize Park, said: “I think people need to be made aware that even in so-called wealthy areas there are elderly people suffering.

“I was a child during the war but remember the rationing that went on into the post-war years.

“It’s an absolute tragedy that we’re reverting back to that era and a terrible state of affairs that people are having to choose between food and heat.”

The figures reveal that Hampstead Town has the highest level of fuel poverty in Camden.

Almost 13 per cent of households in the area – home to some of the wealthiest people in the country – have been defined by the government as suffering from fuel poverty, according to statistics dating back to 2011.

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The shocking figures – which could now be even higher following rises in the cost of living – are higher than both the London average (9.2 per cent) and the national average (11 per cent).

More than 400 households in Highgate have also been deemed “fuel poor”.

The news comes as figures were also released by the Department of Health showing the number of reported cases of hypothermia suffered by residents in parts of Camden had more than doubled in the past three years.

Paul Webley, of Age UK Camden who works directly with elderly residents deemed “fuel poor”, said the statistics represented a “frightening trend”.

“Many of the elderly people we help are housebound, particularly susceptible to the cold and often don’t have central heating in their homes,” he said.

“As a result, they have to spend a huge portion of their budget on just keeping themselves warm.

“Time and again we come across them wearing layers upon layers of clothes in a desperate attempt to keep warm.

“We found one elderly gentleman, who couldn’t afford to fix a collapsed ceiling at his home, buried under six blankets to try to stave off the cold.

“With energy prices rising, many are reverting back to the same kind of rationing they endured during the Second World War. It’s truly shocking.”

Cllr Chris Knight, Conservative representative for Hampstead Town, said he was “shaken” by the revelation that his ward now held the highest proportion of “fuel poor” households in Camden.

He said: “You wouldn’t expect it in Hampstead but it is worth remembering that there are many people who moved here before property prices are what they are now.

“They are asset-rich but cash-poor and I think many survive on their pensions but not much else.”

Camden Council says it has been working to tackle fuel poverty by providing energy-saving advice, in-home assessments and the installation of energy-saving measures.

* To find out more about Age UK Camden’s Winter Lifeline Appeal or to donate click here