Winter fuel allowance should ‘only go to UK residents’
More than 80% of Brits think winter fuel payments should only go to people living in the UK, as a new report calls for the current system to be overhauled.
The Government is being urged to look again at the winter fuel allowance after research from uSwitch.com revealed almost half of consumers believe winter fuel payments should be means tested (49%), while almost six in ten think eligibility should be based on health as well as age (58%).
Winter fuel payments currently go to all British citizens born on or before 5th July, 1951.
But critics highlight that some people who claim the allowance continue to receive payments even if they have moved abroad, or no longer require the extra cash as no further checks are made on income or residential status.
According to the report, six in ten Brits think the money saved should go towards helping people with disabilities with energy bills, while 52% believe lower income households should benefit.
Meanwhile, over half thinks the winter fuel allowance should automatically increase in line with inflation, while two thirds of those asked felt recipients should be allowed to opt-out if they feel they do not need the extra cash.
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, 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 have gone without heating at some point this winter to keep their energy costs down, while over a third of people 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.”
Consumers are being urged to take steps to cut their energy bills by using less energy by making homes more energy efficient and shopping around to ensure they are on the lowest possible price plan.
uSwitch.com highlights there is currently a £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
Households are being put under extra pressure as all of the ‘Big 6’ energy suppliers have increased their energy prices in recent months, some as high as 10.8% for gas and electricity.
Some households have been forced to switch off their heating in order to keep up with energy bills despite sub-zero conditions.
According to Legal & General, nearly 4.5m households across the country were in fuel poverty last month, making this a small rise since October last year.
The Government states that households who spend more than 10% of their income on gas and electricity are classified as in ‘fuel poverty’.