Winter fuel allowance cut by up to £100

Published by Nathalie Bonney on 24 March 2011.
Last updated on 24 March 2011

Gas fire

Pensioners will see their winter fuel allowance payments cut, with the over 80s worst hit with their benefit being slashed by £100.

Although Chancellor George Osborne didn't mention it in his Budget speech, it has emerged that pensioners will lose out on top–up payments to their winter fuel allowance.

Without the top–ups, over–80s will receive £100 less while over–60s will receive £50 less.

The basic winter fuel allowances of £300 (for over 80s) and £250 (for over 60s) will remain.

Bills increasing

This latest revelation comes at a time when household energy bills are increasing dramatically. In 2008, when the allowance was first introduced, the average home gas and electric bill cost £819; the average now is £1,132.

Read Rachel Lacey's blog: How I cut my energy bills in half

Although the coalition government argues that it is doing nothing different to the previous government, campaign groups for the elderly argue it's of small comfort.

"We appreciate that the winter fuel payment has been retained in the face of huge financial pressure but with energy prices continuing to escalate, many old people will find it strange that they will receive less," says Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK.

The winter fuel payment was introduced to help pensioners cope with growing energy bills and is eligible to anyone born on or before 5 July 1950 (for the 2010/11 winter).

Funding cuts to the scheme were already announced at the end of 2010 with two thirds of its budget taken away.

Ann Robinson, director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, says: "The government needs to understand that pensioners are already concerned about next winter. The withdrawal of the extra payments of £50 for those under 80 and £100 for those over 80, will hit pensioners hard, especially the large number that are living in fuel poverty. It's this group in particular that need as much help and support as possible from the Government.
 
"Last December was the coldest in 100 years and 55% of people went without heating at some point last winter to keep their energy costs down, and two in ten (20%) regularly went without. This year, without extra help, many pensioners will be condemned to a cold miserable winter and may suffer ill health as a result."

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