22 August 2010

Snatching winter fu-el

The age at which the elderly can claim winter fuel payments, worth £250 last year for the over-60s and an extra £150 for those over 80, is all but certain to be raised to cut some of the £2.7 billion annual costs. ... The handouts could also be restricted to less well-off pensioners who claim other benefits. (Daily Mail, 18 Aug 2010, from article ‘Bonfire of the middle class benefits’.)

After the state pension had ceased being independent of means-testing, additional payments for specific purposes were introduced from time to time, supposedly to reduce the hardship of those who now received significantly less than those with fewer savings.

But such specific items are vulnerable, and it is now proposed that the winter fuel allowance should be received at a later age than before, and also possibly be paid only to those in receipt of other benefits (i.e. with sufficiently small savings, and receipt of some other benefit to prove it).

Thus the proportion of the pension that is free from means-testing is to be decreased, and the extra percentage which I would receive if my savings were small enough will be increased. At present I would receive 36% more per annum if I were poor enough; if the fuel allowance were made dependent on means-testing, that would increase to about 40%.

As a matter of fact, even if I were eligible for the income supplement I would probably forgo it, and I think that pensioners as a whole should think very seriously before applying for it, since it can only be got by exposing yourself to scrutiny by those who may decide that you are no longer fit to live in independence, but should be incarcerated in a care home for your own good.

Since writing the above

Today, 19 August, I read that it is proposed that winter fuel payments to pensioners should be delayed to the age of 75, which means that those on reduced (means-tested) pensions will have their annual payment cut by about 5%.

There are criticisms that this will cost lives. For those of us who are still trying to get started on our adult careers by building up the capital necessary for an academic institution, it is simply an extra handicap, making an already grim situation just a bit worse.