At present, the Winter Fuel Allowance is paid to pensioners in November or December of every year. Whilst this works well for pensions who heat their homes with gas, those “off-grid” that rely on LPG or oil find this payment is too late to take advantage of lower prices typically seen in the summer.
We are happy to report that on 27th November, Scottish National Party MP Mike Weir introduced his Winter Fuel Allowance (Off-Gas Grid Claimants) bill as part of a 10 minute rule motion. The aim of his bill is to ensure the allowance for these claimants should be paid no later than September 30th. This will provide pensioners with the funds to top up their tanks when prices are lower and there is less chance of disruption to deliveries due to poor weather or very high demand.
Last time the bill was introduced in 2012, it failed to complete its passage through parliament before the end of the session. Generally, 10 minute rule bills are an opportunity for MPs to test parliamentary opinion on a particular subject and hence rarely pass into law. BoilerJuice and many of our customers hope that MPs will take the issue more seriously this time given the recent reports about increasing fuel poverty and a large number of additional deaths due to insufficient heating over the winter months.
Earlier this year, energy minister Baroness Verma was said to support the proposal to pay winter fuel payments early for off-grid customers. There has been little news on the subject since then so BoilerJuice has contacted the office of Baroness Verma to find out whether there has been any further progress.
Obviously, paying the Winter Fuel Allowance early isn’t going to make a big impact on fuel poverty, but it is one step that could be introduced to help pensioners reduce the amount they pay for their fuel by allowing them to buy more when prices are cheaper. The only downside could be that moving the payment forward may mean that some pensioners may miss out if the age eligibility criteria is not met because a birthday falls at an inconvenient time. This could be avoided if, for the first year, all claimants whether off grid or not are paid on the usual date between November and December and then, for off-grid claimants, they are moved over to the pay early scheme in the second year.
The next reading of this bill will be on February 28th 2013 so, if you support the idea, please spread the word and contact your MP to raise awareness of this bill.
We’re keen to get your thoughts on this subject so please let us know by commenting on this blog.
For more information about Winter Fuel Payments and this latest proposal
Winter fuel payment eligibility https://www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment/eligibility
Find your MP http://www.theyworkforyou.com