December 13 2013 Latest news:
By Chris Harris
Thursday, January 3, 2013
KEY figures in Suffolk have rejected calls for winter fuel payments to be means-tested.
Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow proposed targeting the allowance for all but the poorest of pensioners to help pay for a fairer system of state support for old age care.
Mr Burstow said the savings would fund reforms by the Dilnot Commission, which is proposing a £35,000 cap on the amount individuals have to pay towards their social care.
Currently, elderly people in England have to contribute to their own care costs if they have savings of more than £23,000.
But Mr Burstow’s idea has been rejected by both Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey and Stephen Singleton, chief executive of The Suffolk Foundation.
Dr Coffey, a Conservative, said her party should stick to its election pledge and maintain the winter fuel allowance as it currently stands. And last night David Cameron backed that view, confirming he was sticking to his guns and keeping the payments.
The Suffolk Foundation, in partnership with the East Anglian Daily Times, has raised more than £50,000 this year by asking people, if they can afford it, to donate their payments. The money from the campaign, called Surviving Winter, is used to help the vulnerable stay warm.
Mr Singleton said: “There’s already a mechanism in place all over the country where people can reallocate their winter fuel allowance and help people.”
He added the cost of setting up the means-testing of winter fuel payments would offset any benefits.
Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said: “It’s a shame that someone didn’t buy Mr Burstow a calculator for Christmas - because if they had he would have realised that his plan just doesn’t add up.
“Introducing a means-tested system will create a costly and inefficient bureaucracy which evidence shows will result in those who need it most failing to come forward to make a claim.
“Our social care system doesn’t need this kind of tinkering at the edges - but a radical overhaul. Taking money from pensioners who are trying to keep warm this winter on just over £10,500 a year will only create more fuel poverty and ultimately lead to more older people dying from the cold.”