CHARITIES have appealed to to the First Minister to give over 130,000 Scottish pensioners in poverty and low income an extra £50 this winter - in the wake of soaring energy price rises.

Age Scotland along with Stroke Association, Chest Heart and Stroke, Citizens Advice, Energy Action Scotland and the Scottish Older Peoples Assembly are supporting the move for the payment focussing on those least able to afford heating bills which they believe will relieve pressure on the NHS and social care.

Age Scotland say a £6.65m outlay as a "preventative health spend" could help over 130,000 of the lowest income pensioners they say they can easily be identified.

They say Scottish ministers should act without the need to deal with the Department for Work and Pensions by paying direct to people's bank accounts.

Age Scotland said that ensure that older people have enough money to meet the increasing cost of heating their homes to a safe level will mean that illnesses such as pneumonia, influenza, stroke and heart attack could be avoided.

On average, energy prices have risen by 12% since the energy price cap in October, and it is estimated they will increase by at least the same amount again before the spring.

READ MORE: Anger as 1.5m Scots households face energy bills rise by up to £139 after Ofgem price cap hike

Around 1.5m Scots households will saw their energy bills soar by up to £139 a year after Ofgem hiked the price cap by the biggest increase yet.

From October, three in four customers on default tariff customers paying by direct debit would see an increase of £139 from £1,138 to £1,277, while the rest who are on prepayment meters will see a rise of £153 from £1,156 to £1,309.

HeraldScotland:

Meanwhile inflation surged in October to the highest rate in almost 10 years at 4.2% - outstripping any future rise in the State Pension.

According to figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), 133,000 Scottish pensioners in receipt of Pension Credit received at least one Cold Weather Payment last year.

In 2017/18, 108,822 people were admitted to hospital in Scotland with diseases of the respiratory system.

On average, it Age Scotland estimates it costs more than £8,000 to treat a patient in hospital when admitted in an emergency.

That does not include the extra costs which might be incurred by health and social care after discharge to support the patient with their recovery.

"Preventatively spending £50 to mitigate against the 12% average rise in energy costs for those on the lowest incomes, and likely in the poorest health, could save the NHS millions of pounds and reduce capacity this winter," said an Age Scotland spokesman.

The charity suggests Scottish pensioners should be informed in early December that a payment of £50 will be made via their local authority in early January.

"This would give older people on the lowest incomes reassurance that they can turn up their heating when it is cold in the knowledge that the extra cost can be met," the spokesman added.

"Keeping older people well this winter and avoiding emergency medical treatment in hospital for respiratory illness such as pneumonia and influenza is vital."

There are already a number of energy related social security payments in place.

Winter Fuel Payment: People in receipt of the State Pension are paid a winter fuel payment of between £100 and £300 to help pay their heating bills.

But Age Scotland said it does not necessarily help with unexpected increases in energy costs such as those being faced this winter.

In a letter to Nicola Sturgeon, Brian Sloan, Age Scotland chief executive said: "When you consider the cost of medical treatment, if this preventative measure kept must 831 people out of hospital, less than 1% of the potential recipients, then it would pay for itself and result in better health outcomes.

"It is clear that further action is needed to protect the NHS and save lives this winter, and a modest investment which could prevent ill health amongst some of society's most vulnerable is one worth taking."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We’re aware that rising costs mean many older people face a particularly tough winter, and are taking action to support people on low incomes, including through our £41 million Winter Support Fund.  

“This year we are spending £114 million to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency, taking the total allocated since 2009 to more than £1 billion. We continue to fund Home Energy Scotland to provide free and impartial advice on how to reduce bills and make homes warmer and cheaper to heat, and our free National Assistance Helpline is there to help people access practical, financial and emotional support through their local authority. 

“However, we only have limited power to address low household incomes, and powers related to the energy market are reserved. We will continue to call upon the UK government to address rising energy prices and to reinstate the £20 uplift to Universal Credit.”