Cold weather payouts

THE "unjust" cold weather payments system has accused the Government of letting down Suffolk's pensioners, a Suffolk MP has claimed.David Ruffley, Bury St Edmunds MP, has called for a shake up in the system which leaves pensioners out in the cold unless strict criteria are met.

THE "unjust" cold weather payments system has accused the Government of letting down Suffolk's pensioners, a Suffolk MP has claimed.

David Ruffley, Bury St Edmunds MP, has called for a shake up in the system which leaves pensioners out in the cold unless strict criteria are met.

Currently people aged over 60 on income support are given an extra £8.50 only if the temperature stays at, or is forecast to, stay at an average of 0C or below for seven days.

Having challenged pensions minister Malcolm Wicks MP to look at factors such as wind chill, which are currently ignored in the payment calculations, Mr Ruffley said the minister's response filled him with "sorrow and dismay".

"The minister's reply does not address the particular points that I have raised about the effects of the wind chill," Mr Ruffley said.

"The Government's waffle is just another example of their disappointing approach to pensioner fuel poverty in East Anglia.

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"I regularly hear from many pensioners in my constituency who are troubled by rising fuel bills and are finding it difficult to keep warm during very cold snaps.

"It is about time this Government started listening to the needs of the pensioners who are struggling to keep warm this winter," the Suffolk MP added.

In a letter to Mr Ruffley, Mr Wicks said the current payment system was intended to provide extra help to the most vulnerable people towards additional heating costs during a period of cold weather but factors like wind chill were irrelevant and would complicate the issue.

"With regards to wind chill, this is a factor that affects human comfort out of doors," Mr Wicks wrote. "This way of combining temperature and wind speeds is not appropriate to calculating the effect on domestic heating requirements.

"Any proposal to introduce an allowance for wind speed into the scheme would increase the complexity and uncertainty of the scheme, without ensuring that payments went to those with the greatest need for additional heating," he added.

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