Calls on the government to review the winter fuel allowance have been revived after research found overwhelming public support for an overhaul of how the grant is distributed.
85% of respondents also said that they disagreed to winter fuel allowance payments going to people who no longer live in the UK, while almost half said they think it should be means tested.
The winter fuel allowance has been the source of controversy when several celebrity figures said that they would donate their winter fuel allowance to charity.
Celebrity ‘pensioners’, such as Joanna Lumley, Esther Rantzen and David Jason pledged to donate the money they received to charity, reflecting the research published today which found that two thirds of consumers think they should be able to opt out of the payments if they can already afford their energy bills.
Grant given to all
Currently the grant is given to anyone, regardless of means, born on or before 5th July, 1951 and cannot be given back.
And in the depths of the recession, many questioned the sense of a universal payment regardless of income at a time when energy prices and fuel poverty continues to rise, hitting low income households the hardest.
But the research found that:
- Six in ten (60%) think people with disabilities should qualify for winter fuel payments – 52% believe lower income households should benefit too.
- Over half (55%) think the winter fuel allowance should automatically increase in line with inflation
- Two thirds of consumers (66%) think recipients should be allowed to opt-out of winter fuel payments if they do not need the extra cash
- Four in ten consumers (41%) do not know how much the winter fuel allowance is, while less than two in ten (18%) are aware that anyone born on or before 5th July, 1951 is eligible.
While wishing to see eligibility for the allowance to be restricted, many of the respondents want to see the allowance channeled into a broader spectrum of people, in particular those most vulnerable to fuel poverty. 60% believe that people with disabilities should be entitled to the money and 52% think lower income households should get the extra help. Almost a quarter (23%) believe the money should be aimed at the unemployed to help with winter energy bills.
Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch said“With household energy bills at a record-high, winter fuel payments can be a life-line for state pensioners struggling to get by. Our research shows overwhelming support for the allowance to continue, but a growing recognition that payments could be better targeted at those who actually need the extra help.
“Almost seven in ten households (69%) have gone without heating at some point this winter to keep their energy costs down, while over a third of people (35%) say that cutting back on energy usage is affecting their quality of life or health – up from 15% last year.
“Limiting winter fuel payments to those living in the UK and giving wealthier recipients the right to opt-out could prove popular moves and would put more money in the kitty for those in greater hardship.
“Britain is on the cusp of an energy affordability crisis and while the Government should do all it can to help, consumers must also protect themselves. There are two simple steps we can all take to keep a lid on our bills: use less energy by making our homes more energy efficient and make sure we are paying the lowest possible price for the energy we do use.
“There is currently almost £250 difference between the cheapest and most expensive tariffs on the market – this could make a huge difference in helping people to afford to keep warm.”
Donating your Winter Fuel Payment
If you feel like you don’t need the extra help from the government, you can donate your winter fuel allowance with the Saga Surviving Winter Campaign.