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Should the Winter Fuel Payments be Means Tested?

June 14, 2010 | Fuel Poverty

Energy bills can be a burden when you’re earning a salary, let alone when you’re living on a pension. But not all pensions are the same. Take the £28 million pay-and-pension package recently awarded to one of the gas industry’s ‘fat cats’, for instance. Although at 56 this particular gentleman is not yet eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment, in four years time he will be.

The point is… should he (and all the other ‘fat cats’ out there) receive the same Winter Fuel Payment as my elderly neighbour who survives on a weekly state pension of just £97.6 and who struggles to pay his electricity and heating oil bills?

“No way!!!” I hear you shout. But of course that’s an extreme example.

Obviously if you are a pensioner struggling to survive on a state pension then winter fuel payments are vital to help towards your electricity, gas or heating oil. But many ‘ordinary’ pensioners still enjoy generous final salary schemes, so the additional money doesn’t make a great deal of difference to their lives.

So perhaps Winter Fuel Payments should be means tested, so poorer pensioners get more and wealthier pensioners get less – or nothing at all in the case of the ‘fat cats’.

But would the administrative costs involved eat up any savings? And would it mean yet more confusing form-filling for elderly people already bombarded with red tape? We’ve all heard stories of people failing to claim payments they are entitled to. I’d hate to think my neighbour was turning down his thermostat purely because bureaucracy had put him off claiming for a means tested Winter Fuel Payment.

Already, claiming Winter Fuel Payments isn’t as easy as you might think. There are several different amounts between £125 and £400, depending on when you were born, where you live and who you live with. Only people aged over 80 on or before 26th September 2010 qualify for the full amount, but only if they live alone.

So add means testing to this already confusing equation and there’s a real risk that people won’t claim who need it most.

And there’s always the argument that the state pension isn’t means tested – so why should we means test fuel payments?

Most single people above pensionable age who’ve paid the right National Insurance contributions are entitled to a state pension. This means even multi-millionaires receive it. Just like the Winter Fuel Payment.

So maybe pensions should be means tested too? Or is that what the new Government has up its sleeve anyway…

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  1. No means testing for winter fuel. I scrimped and saved for retirement, no holiday for over 40 years. I thought my savings would give me a decent living and I could make up the holidays during retirment. Now I am retired with UK econonics in a poor state I have little or no income from my savings and am living on the money I have worked so hard for years to save for a decent retirement. I am not a “fat cat” just someone who hoped for better days and went without to get the savings that are disappearing fast.

  2. I think its appalling that the well off are getting winter fuel payments it should be means tested. as should be child allowance for the wealthy, This government is trying to reduce the budget deficit but are refusing to means test benefits that were primarily aimed at the pore in our society the reason being they want votes from the well off middle class.

  3. It should be means tested but in a more cost efficient way than government agencies currently operate. My stepfather was mortified when he received his Winter Fuel Allowance after turning 60. He said he is able bodied and earning a reasonable wage of £25kpa and quite capable of paying his own bills at present. So much was his disgust of receiving this allowance he immediately donated it to a local charity that supports pensioners. I totally agree with my stepfathers beliefs and actions.

  4. The cost of means testing the benefit would probably cost the same or more than the savings made. I say leave it alone.

  5. I have two elderly relatives, both in their 90’s, one lives in Local Authority Sheltered Housing. She pay just £12 a week rent, as the rest of the rent is paid for by social services. This “rent” includes all her Hot Water, Council Tax, Housing repairs and HEATING. SO I cannot understand why she gets extra Money from the government just because the temperature drops. It makes no difference to anyone in sheltered accommodation. (Its a similar situation for people in Nursing homes). She doesn’t need the extra winter fuel allowance so she gives it to her, grown up, children. Meanwhile, the other relative lives in his own home and struggles to pay his fuel bills. Winter fuel allowance should not be given to anyone who lives in Nursing hoes, sheltered accommodation or social housing where heating is included within the rent.

  6. Simple. Add the heating allowance to the state pension. The “fat cats” would then pay 50% of it back in the form of income tax. The amount of money saved from cutting the bureaucracy of handing out the heating allowances could be used to add another pound or two to the pension. Means testing just introduces another layer of government bureaucracy which has to be paid for by us, the tax payers.

  7. My neighbours are 2 twin brothers and they get seperate wiinter fuel payments because one is still claiming under the old address,should this be allowed,is this not fraud

  8. Yes i know person that is on cruise after cruise and holiday home and appartment here and if he spends two weeks a month at the address its a miricale And he rents properties out yet gets fuel payment and cold weather so wrong when elderly poor sick and vunerable terminally ill need it

  9. We would be very upset at losing our winter fuel allowance. we nor any of our family have ever claimed a penny from the state, and the State Pension is the lowest paid in Europe. to our mind this is only an extra payment on the State Pension.With interest rates so low, it has not been worth saving. we have to have some Fat Cats in the country, it helps to provide employment, and also swells income tax revenues, as all pensions are taxed at source. A lot of people give theirs to charity without a song and a dance about it, no need for the Politicians to create special people to gather charity giving of the allowance. this Country runs on Charity, many many people give all the time even if they cannot really afford it themselves, or keep the charity shops going with donations. One thing about VAT at least everybody has to pay it if they are buying luxury goods, so in a small way we are getting some of the money back. With all the fraud about, it would be very difficult to police and means test the fuel allowance, and very costly too. we save ours towards our big winter oil bills, and are pleased to receive it. For the same reasons, I would be very upset at losing my bus pass too! Mary

  10. I think all benefits should be means tested the goverment would save if done this way.

  11. before mr cameron,and this coalition govt. attempt to refuse the heating allowance to the rich of this country( uk),who they say don’t need it,what about all those uk.citizens (over 60) who have emigrated to spain,for example who are recieving this allowance. the clue is in the title of this allowance…”HEATING” ….WHO IN GODS NAME NEEDS A HEATING ALLOWANCE IN A COUNTRY LIKE SPAIN . !!! the govt.,or any govt.could save millions by axing this allowance in this area,as they certainly don’t need it !!

  12. Please see the link below which is a petition to campaign for the Winter Fuel Payments to become means tested, and also become available to those who are under 60 and vulnerable to sickness and ill health due to exposure to the cold. I am 26 and this week have had to have my finger amputated due to my medical conditions hich have got worse due to living in cold conditions.

    I appreciate this is a controversial subject, but would be grateul if you could look and see what its about.

    Thank you, Sarah Cox (also Wright)

  13. hello Sarah. I respect your position and I may be totally wrong on this. ( I will stick my head over the parapet & get it shot off.) Is your situation not catered for within the existing benefits system? My step father has Cerebral Palsy and has always received increased payments in winter to allow for increased cost of living. These payments are not meant to cover ALL of the winter heating costs, just the extra. These last couple of winters, the heating allowance has been more than swallowed up by the extra heating required and the inevitable increase in oil prices which are always in excess of inflation. Winter heating allowance went down by 20% this year thanks to the ConDems.

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