Tag Archives: Winter Fuel Payments

The Queen’s Speech – will social care be included?

Photo by Michael Garnett licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

At Age UK we will be listening very carefully to the Queen’s Speech to see if social care is mentioned and, if it is, what precisely is said. We sincerely hope that an intention to bring forward proposals for consultation will be stated, signifying that this new Government intends to press on with the Green Paper that was already underway before the General Election campaign began.

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Spending Review 2013

Older people featured rather significantly in the public spending review to 2015/16. The Chancellor talked quite forcefully about the need to address the problems in social care, and in his consideration of welfare spending, he firmly identified state pensions as remaining outside his proposed new ‘cap’.

440x210_george-osborneThe landscape for the next Government is coming into view, but what does it mean for older people beyond the rhetoric? By 2016, of course, we should be implementing the legislation currently being debated in Parliament and have in place a new single tier state pension and a new social care regime – funded in part by the ideas proposed by Andrew Dilnot. The spending plans suggest that more money will be diverted from NHS budgets into programmes jointly commissioned with social care.   If this means more integrated care and a more ‘whole person’ approach, it will be welcome. But before we get there, local government will have taken another severe cut in its budget, and there is speculation that social care support may be prioritised only for those with critical needs. This means we will remain far away from the ambition to provide the appropriate care which promotes independence and prevents people from becoming substantially or critically in need of care. Continue reading

Winter fuel payments again……

Winter fuel payments are in the news yet again. I have lost count of the number of reports and media articles I have read about why these should be reformed and how the money could be better used to cut the deficit or transform our failing system of care or solve some other crisis.  And please don’t tell me again that millionaires don’t need a winter fuel payment or a bus pass. Of course not – but let’s make policy changes based on the position of majority of older people not the small minority who are very rich. (when the Deputy Prime Minister pointed out last year that Alan Sugar didn’t need a bus pass Lord Sugar tweeted  in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t have one!).

Winter radiator - Photo: HarlanH via Flickr

Photo: HarlanH (Creative Commons)

So should we be looking at restricting universal payments to the less well off? It has been suggested that they should just go to people receiving Pension Credit. However that would mean that up to 1.6 million of the poorest older people would miss out because they are not claiming the Pension Credit they are entitled to. The big advantage of universal payments is that they reach everyone including those do not take up means-tested benefits. They also provide some extra help to the ‘not rich but not poor’ group who can feel because they made sacrifices during their working lives they miss out on benefits and are penalised for having saved. Continue reading

Means testing could make things worse for those that need help most

It seems incredible that, in the name of cost saving and to prevent a few well off pensioners from receiving some pretty modest benefits, ministers can be entertaining the idea of extending means-testing.

Making people apply for benefits they are entitled to is notoriously inefficient. Pension Credit is not claimed by about 30 per cent of those eligible and Council Tax Benefit by about 40 per cent. When Gordon Brown refused to increase the state pension above the rate of inflation (with a freakish inflation figure in 1999 leading to a 75p increase), he argued that a means-tested Pension Credit was the efficient answer.

However, even he exercised a balance, by making the Winter Fuel Payments universal and restricting the free TV licence to the oldest – who are demonstrably the poorest part of our none-too-wealthy older population, and of course a means-tested claim costs ten times as much to process as an automatic one.

Bizarrely this proposal is surfacing as the ONS publish figures on the poverty risk facing older people ion the UK and the EU. It turns out, according to their figures, that older people in the UK are faring worse than their counterparts in most of the rest of Europe.

There are more than enough poor pensioners struggling with energy bills and food price inflation to maintain some parts of our benefit system which actually get help to them.

Some older celebrities were proud to proclaim last winter that they were donating their Winter Fuel Payment to charity – that is fine and that is their right. It is hard to imagine many of the seriously rich pensioners on the buses with their passes.  Continue reading