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Don’t want the government’s money? Tough luck

Research finds widespread concern over winter fuel allowance payments.

Joanna lumley and friends

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.

‘Overwhelming support’

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.

  • Flopsy Bunny

    I donate my WFA to my local charity. That way I know it goes to where it is needed. Prefer to do that rather than hand it back to the Government where it would just go back into a nebulous pot and pay for an increase in MP’s pay or something. .

  • Aubs

    I get €71 a week on ESA, I will b getting £130 from British Gas with their Warm front scheme. I have to put £30 a week away to cover Gas, electric, water and now council tax! This leaves just £41 to cover ALL other bills and food! It’s impossible to make ends meet. No wonder payday loan companies and credit cards are making a killing!

    • Grumpy Bob

      No job that can be done?

  • Norah Davies

    I am astounded to hear that EVERYONE born after 5th July, 1951 gets the winter fuel allowance, this is the first time I have heard about it,

    I am disabled, on a VERY low income at the moment because I had the nerve to appeal against the DWP’s decision that I am not eligible for ESA, I have had the winter fuel payment since I first became disabled, but I did not receive one when I was supposed to a couple of weeks ago, even though a neighbour told me she had received hers,

    when I contacted the DWP to see why I was not paid, I was told that because I have made the above appeal…. wait for it!…. it has been deferred until the out come of my appeal is known.

    This will take at least ANOTHER SIX MONTHS! so if I do win, (and I can’t see why I wont) I shall receive my WINTER fuel payments in the middle of summer, not now when I really need it, I can’t keep myself warm, and has one of my problems is arthritis I am having a lot of pain on top of all my other problems,

    So hearing that people who do not need nor want these payments are getting them, well it is beyond words for me.

    they SHOULD be means tested, and if as in my case someone that should have them, but can’t get them because of such appeals, can’t they be given them then pay them back if their appeal fails? surly they are meant for older and people on low incomes? the DWP are just making things for myself and anyone like me even harder?

    Come on DWP for goodness sake get your act together, and give the money to the ones that NEED it!

    • http://www.facebook.com/ian.brunsdon.5 Ian Brunsdon

      Im in the same boat Norah because im on appeal i didnt get the cold weather payment due,im due a Warm front payment but if like last year, i will recieve it at the end of March when the weather will probably be warmer? the dwp even witheld my xmas tenner.All i can say say is good luck,hang in there.

    • Norah

      It’s BEFORE 5th July 1951 Norah, not after.

  • hjf

    i don’t think it should be per person either. I Know of a situation where an elderly parent lives with daughter and husband and all 3 get it. It doesn’t cost them three times the amount so it’s not justified giving it to individuals. It should be per household.

    • mirror man

      you are a liar,it is per household not per person

      • jaycee

        It is not 1 payment per household, my sister and partner get a payment each

        • http://www.facebook.com/sybil.chick Sybil Ann Chick

          Each eligible person receives a payment but the total allowance stays the same.

          For example, before I reached State Pension age my husband got the full £200 allowance but this winter we received £100 each from the DWP.

  • mirror man

    I am a pensioner who receives the £200 per year allowance I rely on the money to help towards paying my winter heating bills .but I hope this government stops it,because every pensioner that gets there allowance stopped will be another vote to kick this bunch of corrupt half wits out.

    • Phil the fluter

      I understand mirror man’s philosophy, but disagree on the outcome, as the new Government would not reinstate it. Take for instance when Thatcher took away the Pension link with inflation, she passed the paperwork, but it was the next Labour Government that enforced it rather than repeal it. They say we are all in this mess together, but when have they taken any hits, talking now about a 36% rise in salary and still fiddling as they did before.

    • Long term realist

      Yes, and let the other bunch of even more corrupt half wits, who ruined the economy in the first place, back in to do it again!

      • rusty23day

        Yes if Labour get back in then we may as well all leave the country- just what the country needs people like Prescott who cannot even speak his own language to finish the country off

  • John

    WFA is unfair, and so is the rest of the current tax system. Why can it just not be simplified. Raise pensions and tax free allowances to a living level so allowances are not needed. Having to pay WFA and all sorts of other allowances is just an admission by the government that pensions are inadequate.
    Any payment for people out of work can then be exactly the same as the pension payment. Why should a pensioner be expected to live on less than out of work people are paid. People should not be paid extra or given bigger houses because they have more children, the current system just encourages people to have children, if they had to think about the implications first they may not have so many.
    You can then work out the tax levels needed to apply to the higher paid to recoup any tax loss from doing these changes. I may have another pension source but I get taxed on that.
    But I don’t think the politicians have any interest in getting things right, if everything worked OK we would not need them or the huge departments that handle all the claims and paperwork.
    Why can it just not be made simple. Personally I would scrap all allowances and go to a single payment system.
    I would give my WFA to charity, but I can’t find an honest one that will tell me exactly how much of my donation will go to the people that need it. I am not paying for administrators to get large salaries. So I use it to be able to offer direct help to those that need it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gail.sydneysmith Gail Sydney-smith

      hi John, Samaritans Purse is an honest charity, i know people who work for them. the money goes where its supped to

  • derekhek

    derekhek. Instead of all the fuss and bother of meanstesting the receiptients why not make the payment taxable. It would take a lot back from the wealthy whilst leaving the very poor with the full amount

  • Yam

    Yeah, seems a great idea to means test another benefit that we workers all contribute toward. So , all those people in work who pay taxes and NI, and who chose to pay into a pension scheme to compliment the meagre state pension should not receive the WFA because they are a couple of pounds over the threshold, whilst all those who never worked and are on benefits, and those who chose not to contribute to personal pensions but drank away their wages every pay day should get WFA !Yeah great idea.

    • Caring

      A very selfish and a very judgemental attitude. Some people neither drink alchohol nor smoke cigarretts but have not been fortunate enough to obtain the beneficial status of others. The real answer is that the energy companies are overcharging and the poorest people are often forced to prepayment meters which is of course the most expensive tarriff

    • Rosemary

      I couldn’t agree more with you. Why should I have to be means tested for something that I find very useful as I’m retired on a small pension and I spend far more than 10% on heating bills even though I have more than the income limit for State support. Let those being taxed at 40% and above give it up if they want but leave marginal people out – we need all the help we can get.

    • Joe Ash

      So you’ve managed to stay in work all your life have you? Well bully for you. Lots of people aren’t that lucky. I’m sixty years old and due to recession have just had my working week cut to just two days.
      I can only claim housing and council tax benefits (which admittedly is a big help) but I’m still leeching out money faster than it’s coming in.
      Tell me, how do you suddenly adjust your life to surviving on £72 a week?
      There’s no jobs round here for a sixty year old that I have seen. I’m still working of course. Not enough for tax credits, and too much for job seekers allowance.
      I think you should show a bit more compassion and be thankful that you’ve been in a position that enables you to pay taxes.
      If my position continues to get worse I’ll have no choice but to go around mugging wealthy people.

  • ortho@me.com

    It is per house hold not per person.

  • John Pallant

    Uk only qualify…can only be credited to your Energy Company..an opt out system for those who feel they do not need it. Its not rocket science is it ??

  • HH

    I am fascinated to read that the pensioner ‘celebrities’ WILL donate their winter fuel allowance to charity. They have not considered this in the past? I suspect most of these people are on incomes/savings most of us could only dream of.
    Why do such an alleged high percentage of people interviewed believe that benefits should not be paid to UK overseas residents? If you choose to pay your taxes to the government of your chosen country of residence, then I consider that might be fair comment. However, most retired UK residents living overseas have, and continue to pay their taxes to HM Customs and Revenue. Not surprisingly, I believe the British government have a duty in return for these taxes.
    One of the fallacies held, is that most overseas residents live in a climate, in buildings which require neither heating nor cooling for their comfort. Please do your homework before speaking or putting a tick in the box on this issue.

  • bernie

    The problem with means testing is that many people, like myself, will simply go without rather than submitting to the test. I know several who similarly miss out on council tax rebate.

  • Barbara

    Last year I received a bill from EDF saying I owed £4911.00 fuel joint bill I was so worried it made me quite ill.I then took another 4 months to get this sorted out I knew I never owed amount – EDF said it was the meter reading that was wrong but the damage was already done I had letters from my Bank saying I was overdrawn because of the direct debit with EDF.I explained to my bank I knew deep down I didnt owe any money on my dual fuel with EDF I always paid the same amount every month – I then had a meter reading done again and guess what it was definetle good news I never owed any money I telephoned the EDF manager he said how much compensation do I want/expect they gave me £25.00 why the hell am i still with them I ask myself. I was in a terrible state worrying about the bills

    • WillyEckerslyke

      Don’t just ask yourself “why am I still with them”. Change to another supplier.

  • Terry gough

    If you work all your life @pay all the tax the goverments keep putting on us all in any way they can why should we have to be means tested? I have worked 52 years @ think I should be entitled to this payment.if we stoped giving money to all the scrounges @freeloaders @ people who have come to this country @never paid a penny into the system we could look after the genuin pensioners instead of treating them like they get money for nothing.

  • Perry525

    Having it means tested, will mean employing thousands of civil servants at enormous cost to look after the paperwork……..better it should be taxed…..work can be done by existing civil servants. This should save tax payers money.

  • Me

    Yet another ‘breach of contract’ by this Govt -both my wife and I have paid ,paid and paid again into the ‘system ‘ for decades -the NHS is no longer viable -due to Tony Blair entering into PFI schemes with Indian lobbyists -so the NHS is unable to pay both wages and service the extrortionate lease agreements
    We have worked/contributed and DESERVE what we expected -unlike the ‘recent’ visitors from Timbuktoo who arrive on our shores trying to convert us to their BARBARIC religion

    • http://twitter.com/tristanpw1 TristanPriceWilliams

      Full of hatred for foreigners huh?

  • gardener

    Good idea but also 3 months in the winter could they also let pensioners have for a single payment so they can have warmth in the very cold months and not have to worry about the bills going up, if they are on low income.

  • Michael

    The answer is so simple if you do not pay into a scheme then you are not entitled to anything, when the welfare state was introduced, stamps bought by national insurance contributions had to be fully paid up to receive benefits, why this was ever changed I do not know, maybe it gave more opportunity to set yet more government departments. I also agree with many of the comments below

  • sweet pee

    I agree that the money should go to those that neaded it. I know of some people who recieves this money but live abroad, rent their house out to family members so they can recieve every benifit going Dont say report them as my life would be hell as they have friends in these places

  • Fred

    As a retired couple living on £12,500 a year in pensions we are , according to the government , living in poverty. But because we have some money in the bank , enough to bury us and repair our house we get no help with our Council tax. So we pay £2,000 a year in Council tax and water and another £2,500 for electric and gas as we have to keep the house warm and are in most of the day and £500 a year for house insurance. That leaves us with £7,500 a year for everything else. Then along comes this proposal to only pay the £200 fuel allowance to people who are claiming “certain allowances” so we would loose that as well.

  • Sally D

    A simple expedient would be to count the winter fuel allowance as taxable income – easy and cheap to operate. Some recipients would pay nothing back in taxes, others 20% or 40% depending on their total taxable income.

  • Zoop

    Stopping payment to UK citizens who live abroad makes sense. Means testing has proved in the past with other items that it costs more in employing extra civil servants than it does to just pay across the board. Allowing an easy way to donate it to a charity also makes sense to me.

  • Pensioner

    The current state pension is £107.45 per week. The average gas/elec fuel bill per annum is £1400.00k. If the Members of Parliament who represent us believe that a person can survive on that amount, then I suggest that they try. In the meantime – leave the £200.00 per annum fuel allowance alone. I expect this survey was government inspired anyway, because they don’t want to pay it. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat attitude is – stand on your own two feet – we’re all right jack.

  • Lizzy

    If you don’t live in the UK you should not be eligible for winter fuel payments

  • Peter Dilworth

    Means testing would be more expensive than just giving to all. For the more affluent it will be taken back in tax again and used to fund the wars and the consultancy fees government seems so fond of. There have to be some benefits for all to make all feel included and part of the social security system.

  • Poetgirl

    i worked from full time age 15 to 67,payed tax and insurance. I saved a lot of my wages as shares, investments and also bought art and other things which would increase in value over the years so I could be comfortable now. Having paid tax on my wages, the tax people now, are taxing the income I get from these, in fact taking 50% of it. They are now threatening to come into our homes and tax our valuables! How often do we have to pay tax on things we own or earn???

  • silver

    Why shouldn’t we receive the winter fuel payment ? after working 46 years full time, paying NI, tax and into a private pension. We are then taxed after we retire. (often we retire with a number of illness and not in good health). A number of pensioners are disabled and unable to get around and need to be at hiome in the warm. We are supporting still all the people claiming different benefits (in some cases who have never worked in their life and dont want or intend too) plus all the the different people who come into this country and never paid a penny into the state here. So whats £200 per annum to the pensioners !!!!! And l bet if the youngesters of today were given this WFA they would not say no !

  • Liz

    The last company I would donate money to is saga :/

  • Rog

    As usual people who have blown their money on holidays and having a good time with no thought of looking after thenselves will once again come out on top,and people who have looked after their money and gone without will once again be penalised.
    When will governments start looking after the people who look after themselves.

  • croftfield

    The problem we seem to have is that these comments are being posted under the heading WFA.
    I think that the discussion should be more embracing and that it should be ALL Benefits, Should all benefits be means tested?, ALL Benefits in my view would cover EVERY payment claimed/received from any source, other than from self funded sources,ie salary or savings.

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  • Chris

    Winter Fuel Allowance is a joke. It would seem that as a result of EU involvement again, this is now paid to persons living abroad. My uncle who will shortly be 91 years of age lost his WFA because we had to place him in a residential care home in May 2012 for his safety due to Dementia. As he owns his own property the Care Home Fees have to be paid for out of the sale of this. The house is on the market but until sold he still has to pay the fuel bills to keep it heated especially over the winter period. In addition a proportion of his care home fees goes towards the fuel bill costs of the home which are quite expensive. How fair is this?

  • Grannie

    Not sure why I should be means tested after working almost all of my working life and saving a few bob for a rainy day, not taking holidays or cruises each year. I do not even qualify for the full pension because I am one of many who stayed at home a few years to raise children. Roll on when the benefit system is sorted, a lot of these people have been on the system for so long they do not have to worry where the next penny comes from, as when they reach retirement age they still qualify for the full state pension £107, on top of any benefits they receive which is not affected.

    I rely on my husband at work to keep us up and running as my income is minimum.

    Not all benefit people are in the same category, a lot of them are having a whale of a time at the expense of the tax payers.

  • G35

    I agree the WEALTHY should not get the winter fuel allowance but who will the government regard as ‘wealthy’ – most likely all who are not getting benefits. Everybody not getting benefits are not wealthy by any means..

  • Albert

    I think the Winter Fuel Allowance should either not be paid to, or reclaimed through the tax system from, any Higher Rate taxpayer.

  • Jan the Gran

    What about someone like me? Recently widowed, small savings and only just above guaranteed pension credit. We have to be careful that people in my bracket who worked and contributed, but have a small income are given help. Means testing by all means, but where to draw the line !!!

  • discguntled

    as a man just over 50 but a disabled wife just under 50 we are no where near the WFA qualifying criteria. However, because the wifes condition worsens if cold, our heating is on as much as any pensioner and all we get is £25 if the average temp goes below zero degrees (try staying warm anywhere near that temp).( and thats based over a week) I fully agree all RESIDENT Uk pensioners should have what they’re getting, probably should get more. BUT those abroad, come off it, if they can afford to chase the sun, why the hell should they get this add on to their income, come to that “living abroad” ?? (another argument for another day.) At the moment we both spend all day under duvets and only put the heating or water on for our teenage (school age son). As for Celebs donating what they get and can afford to give to charity, I dam well hope its UK charity’s not some third world country whos governments spends more on weapons than the populace. If its out of our Treasury, keep it in OUR country.
    I dont suppose ive paid anywhere near what i get back but for those who have, give them more, for those who left the UK for warmer climes, stop the payment, for those who fall between both, look at it again or sort the grabbing Fuel Companies out. Rant Over.

  • Grumpy Bob

    Couldn’t agree LESS than to give to the unemployed! These folk on benefits for being unemployed should be doing work for local councils after say 6 weeks of job hunting! even if its only hours to cover the cost of benefits. Everyone can work even if its licking stamps!
    This country is crazy when it comes to giving money away!

  • Cavalryman

    I’ve just had a quick scroll down the blogs below and it doesn’t appear to me that there is overwhelming support for changing the system. If celebrities want to give their money to charities, let them do so. Goodness me the charities need it right now! I am always very sceptical of these polls – nobody ever asks me! The other 600 odd people who live on my estate who are all pensioners would mostly agree with me and in any case when you say 40% agree with this and 60% agree with that what are you talking about 40% or 60% of what, because 40% of nothing is nothing and guess what – 60% of nothing is also nothing.

  • telephonegirl

    People paying 40% tax dont need it the rest of us DO. and let us remember that no one HAS to have it we all have the power to donate it to charity if we wish further let us keep celebrities out of this one PLEASE how on earth do they know how the majority of people on a very small private pension and state pension make ends meet or are we supposed to have nothing for all our years of hard work. Johana Lumley and friends on this particular issue BUTT OUT

  • maureenmarney@aol.com

    Cut backs a lot of peoole use it to go Xmas shopping.rather and use it for what its for.the law should pay it to fuel company they hating .not. straight in there pockets

  • Mendip Mike

    Having read the posts, I can summarise as follows:
    All those people that currently recieve it think they deserve it.
    If the state can’t afford it then somebody else’s benefit should be cut and not theirs.
    Those that are too young to recieve it and therefore are paying for it think it should be cut.
    So in other words everybody sees the problem through a rather selfish, self serving viewpoint.

  • http://twitter.com/tristanpw1 TristanPriceWilliams

    You don’t actually get it automatically. You are invited to apply for it. Then they decide whether you can have it or not. Once you have it, you may not be able to stop it. The rich should never have applied in the first place…unless of course, getting it and then donating it gives them some publicity. Let’s face it to people like Joanna Lumley and Rantzen it is pocket change.

  • Forever Cold

    Seemple,as the meerkats say. Let the inland revenue and the benefits people get their heads together and not pay the benefit to those on the higher rate of tax . No costly means testing involved.

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