20 November 2014

Cheese-paring the winter fuel allowance

The government is always cheese-paring towards those of pensionable age.

The population of people of pensionable age is likely to have a higher average IQ than the population at large, because people with below-average genetic endowment, or dysfunctional ways of running their lives, are less likely to reach pensionable age.

The winter fuel allowance (now called ‘winter fuel payment’) is a sop that has been brought in to reconcile people to the fact that pensions had ‘withered on the vine’ to a much greater extent than previous governmental statements had led them to expect. Even the maximum winter fuel payment (£300 per annum to a person of 80 or over living on their own) is scarcely commensurate with the difference between state pensions now and what might have been expected. Moreover, the fuel payments are allocated in a way that may make the recipient worse off, rather than better off.

At present, a person who reaches pensionable age receives £200 per annum winter fuel allowance, but he has to be careful about having any other person living in, or even visiting, his house. Another person might realise that he is getting the fuel allowance, and this might make them less careful in their use of his electricity and gas. This may be an unconscious reaction, but some of the time may not be. I have had lodgers who left boilers running in an overheated house while they were out, apparently because they liked the idea of increasing the houseowner’s bills. Since this happened to me, it seems probable that similar situations occur elsewhere.

If another person living in the same house, whether or not related to the first person, also reaches pensionable age, the fuel payment of the first person is reduced by 50% (i.e. if he had been receiving £200 per annum, this is reduced to £100 per annum), and the second person qualifying will receive only half of one person’s full fuel allowance (i.e. he will also receive £100 per annum).

Even in the case of a married couple, living in the same house will be disadvantageous. However careful and cooperative they are, fuel for two elderly people is almost certain to cost more than that for one elderly person, yet the overall allowance will be the same as for one person.

Being married, incidentally, does not guarantee that the two people concerned are on particularly good terms, and either of them might be a particularly careless and wasteful person, even if with no malice towards the other.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

Photo of All Saints’ Church, Cuddesdon by Edward Keene.