Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A word about Winter Fuel Allowance

I guess one thing we can be grateful for is that the annual absence of politicians from Westminster is much shorter than usual. Maybe that's not so good for the MPs themselves. I've always said that the long Summer recess is not a holiday, but an opportunity to catch up with research and spend time in the constituency. Most of the MPs I know have had to be forced by their families into even taking a two week holiday during that time.

The reason I say grateful for the curtailment is that it makes the silly season, where the press prints all sorts of speculation in the absence of a constant stream of actual news, much shorter. However, it doesn't eliminate them entirely. Today it's the turn of the Government's plans for benefits such as Child Benefit and Winter Fuel Allowance which are being talked about, even though the Government will not be announcing the final plans until October.

One of the things I would regard as sacrosanct would be the universality of Child Benefit. That, along with the State Pension, has to be maintained or improved. However, I do think the Winter Fuel Allowance could change for those between 60 and 65.

Next year, my husband reaches his 60th birthday. As things stand, we as a family will then be eligible for £250 a year to help with fuel costs. If the truth be told, we don't actually need it. Our income is relatively modest, but more than enough to have a decent quality of life. I know of couples aged between 60 and 65, both of whom are working and earning healthy incomes, who want for no luxury, who also qualify for this benefit.

I would find it very difficult to accept this benefit with a clear conscience while disabled people, or families with disabled children, who have a much greater need get nothing. If your mobility is restricted, you can't move around to keep warm so you need to have the heating on higher and for longer. Increased fuel prices have meant that more and more disabled people suffer discomfort from being too cold because they simply can't afford to pay for the gas or electricity they need.

The BBC article suggests that the most the Government is planning to do is freeze this benefit but not to restrict eligibility. I would be inclined to go further. I would remove it from the households where it's not really needed - maybe start with higher rate taxpayers, or even go as far as any household not receiving any other state benefit - and give it to those who really suffer from the effects of fuel poverty. That might upset the right wing tabloid press, but, as Olly Grender said on BBC Breakfast this morning, the best use of the Daily Mail is for composting.


It doesn't add up... said...

I can't think of any use for Olly Grender.

Anonymous said...

"I would remove it from the households where it's not really needed - maybe start with higher rate taxpayers"

The simplest approach might be just to treat it as taxable income - then the better off pensioners will not get all of it

Anonymous said...

In Northern Ireland, Trevor Lunn, Alliance Party MLA for Lagan Valley set up at Winter Fuel Trust for those who don't need their payment to pay it to a trust that will then pass it on to those who are more needy.


Unknown said...

Michael - this is great news and warrants a further post.

Only thing is when I use that URL it just takes me to my Facebook page. Is there another one?


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