Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Why is David Cameron protecting the Winter Fuel Allowance?

As I've already posted, I accept the arguments for removing Child Benefit from higher earners. Indeed, by the time this measure comes in, it's likely that our's will be one of those affected and although I will by then be £120 a month down (if you include loss of tax credits), I can live with that. I will be able to have a decent standard of living without it. I won't have to choose between heating my house and putting food on the table, something which is a reality for many families on low incomes. I'd rather see the tax and benefits system target help to those families who really struggle rather than give me an extra cushion on an already comfortable sofa. 

I don't and won't ever like the issue of it being calculated on the presence of one higher rate taxpayer instead of on household income, with the unfairness that creates, and I want the Government to give a proper explanation, with facts and figures, as to why it can't be done that way, or, even better, find a way of achieving that.

Moving on from Child Benefit, I've been banging on for months about Winter Fuel Allowance. It strikes me as very odd that come next year, when Bob turns 60, that we will get this, especially when a household with a disabled person in it often doesn't. That is just plain wrong.  Even as basic rate taxpayers, we don't need it. While we might grumble at increasing fuel costs, the reality is that we can afford to heat our home without help from the state.  I would feel really bad about accepting this money when others need it more. If we do end up with it,  I will be inclined to give it to some organisation who can distribute it to a more deserving recipient.

If means testing it really is prohibitively expensive, then it may be in this case that restricting entitlement to those of State Pension age and those with a disability will make sure it goes to those who need it most.  There is evidence that the elderly and disabled are badly affected by fuel poverty and the Winter Fuel Allowance should address that and not be given to people who can easily afford to heat their homes.

So I was not happy that David Cameron appeared to rule out any restrictions when he was interviewed on BBC Breakfast this morning.

He said when asked about Winter Fuel Allowance and concessionary bus travel:
"Obviously you have to wait for the spending review announcement but I made some pretty clear promises to pensioners in our country, and those are promises I want to keep."
Hasn't George Osborne already jumped the gun on the Spending Review with yesterday's announcement?

I think that if we accept the principle that we can no longer afford Child Benefit on a universal basis, it shines the spotlight on all others. I think that we can't justify continuing to give the WFA to everyone and I hope that the Spending Review confirms that.


3 comments:

Jennie said...

More pensioners vote tory than parents [/cynicism]

Neil M said...

I agree with your points and think the government should tackle this. Coming from the Scottish Highlands I believe this to be a most important benefit FOR THOSE WHO NEED IT and it has undoubtedly helped tackle what was our woefully bad record on fuel poverty.

As for your situation Caron, can't you just not claim it?

Caron said...

Neil, I think it is difficult to avoid claiming it because it's done automatically through the Pension Service database.

Last year I discovered there was an issue with some men over 60 on Job Seekers Allowance (who really do need it) being missed from the annual trawl, but generally it comes automatically without you having to take any action.

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