Former MP: target winter fuel payment to cut cost of care for elderly

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A former MP has suggested that the winter fuel payment should be means tested to allow further investment in care for the elderly.

In the report by Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow and the Centre Forum think tank,  it was claimed that by targeting the current fuel payment system, money could then be invested in a much fairer social care system.

The independent Dilnot Commission had previously reported that it would cost £1.5bn to implement the necessary reforms of elderly care in England, and Mr Burstow's report claims that by making the winter fuel payment means tested, the money saved could fund the vast majority of that.

The report suggests that the winter fuel payment should be restricted to only those that receive pension credit - a system which takes into account a pensioners saving and income and is only issued to the poorest of retired people.

Mr Burstow said: "Social care isn't free, but it could be a lot fairer for those who have worked hard all their lives.

"By concentrating the winter fuel payment on those eligible for pension credit, we can pay for a cap on care costs."

The report estimates that this system would save around £1.5bn a year and would see almost three-quarters of those who currently receive the benefit lose their allowance - worth between £200 and £300.

Mr Burstow claimed that there were over 100,000 pensioners living on incomes in excess of £100,000 a year and queried if it really necessary to continue paying these individuals, especially when some admitted to using the allowance on other things.

The winter fuel payment system was first introduced by the Government in the winter of 1997/98 to support elderly people with their heating costs during the winter months.

A similar four-year project, known as the Warm Home Discount Scheme was set up in 2011.

This can be claimed alongside the winter fuel payments and is aimed at providing discount on electricity bills for the most needy in conjunction with energy firms such as the 'Big Six'.

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