The winter fuel payment can be a lifeline to those struggling to pay the ever-increasing cost of heating their homes, but it has long been a subject of debate.Would the government’s money be better spent if it were targeted more accurately at those in real need? Currently, as long as you were born before 5 July 1951 (or if you are in receipt of certain benefits) you are eligible for a tax-free lump sum payment of between £100 and £300. It is not paid to prisoners, long-term hospital patients or care home residents, but it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor as there is no means testing for the payment. Somewhat bizarrely, you do not even need to be resident in the UK to be eligible.
Now “celebrity” pensioners such as Joanna Lumley, Esther Rantzen and David Jason have started a campaign which would mean that those who are not in financial need of the payment can hand the payment back easily.A survey carried out recently by uSwitch.com highlighted the fact that the majority of us would like to see changes made to the current system.
The following areas were on the “wish list” of those who took part in the research:
82% thought the payment should be made only to those actually living in the UK
66% would like the possibility of opting out of the payment (not currently possible)
60% thought the payment should be made to those with disabilities (with 58% thinking general health should be taken into account too)
55% felt that the amount paid should take account of inflation
52% would like low-income households to be eligible regardless of age
49% thought the allowance should be means tested
23% would like the unemployed to receive the payment