Wealthy pensioners should have their winter fuel payment cut and redistributed to the elderly who can’t afford to fully heat their homes.
The demand comes from Paul Burstow, the former Care Services Minister for the first two years of the Coalition, who wants to end the “unfair lottery” of care for older people. He believes means-testing the winter fuel payment would free up £1.5billion a year.
The Lib Dem MP’s call comes at a time when the winter fuel allowance has been in the spotlight following harsh weather, rising fuel costs and with the Government facing pressure to eradicate fuel poverty in the next two years.
Currently Britons who are over 61 years old can claim between £100 and £300 tax-free to help pay their heating bills.
But last December the Pensions Minister Steve Webb published figures which showed record numbers of expats – often in warmer climes – were claiming winter fuel allowance.
In the same month, the 67 year old Calendar Girls actress Helen Mirren publicly donated her winter fuel payment to the ‘Surviving Winter’ campaign, an appeal for the elderly.
Today the Lib Dem MP has brought out a report called ‘Delivering Dilnot: Paying for Elderly Care’, to prompt the Government to live up to the recommendations of a Commission it set up when coming to power.
Writing in the Guardian, Mr Burstow said: “The winter fuel payment costs more than £2bn a year and is paid to about 12 million people. If the benefit were limited to those on pension credit, it would release £1.5bn a year.
“By earmarking this money for something else we stop those funds disappearing into the Treasury coffers and divert them into the pockets of older people in desperate need of care.”
He added: “If Dilnot were implemented, capping the cost of care at £50,000 and extending the means test to £100,000 – people would only have to use 22% of their assets. Now that’s a difference worth fighting for, a difference worth a small sacrifice from each of those who can afford it.”