Severely disabled people must make heat-or-eat choice - Spend & Save - Money - The Independent

Severely disabled people must make heat-or-eat choice

A million adults face stark decisions as ministers fail to extend the winter fuel payment. By Simon Read

Next week will see another slap in the face for 1.3 million hard-up severely disabled people. The coming seven days (20-26 September) are the qualifying dates to be eligible for 2010 winter fuel payments. With those qualifying getting up to £400 towards the cost of heating their homes, the cash can make a real difference. But, once again, disabled people will be left at risk.

Hopes were high that the scheme would be extended to disabled people after the Liberal Democrats made a manifesto commitment to do so. But their coalition deal with the Tories has hit their plans to change the system. It's not simply a case that political promises have been cast aside. Indeed, individual MPs are still fighting for the payment to be extended. In fact LibDem MP Julian Huppert has tabled an early-day motion on the issue. "It is vital that the Government reform the present system," he says.



The payment was introduced by the last Labour government to help struggling pensioners afford to survive the winter. It is paid to people aged 60 and over, with those 80 and older getting £400.



But there are more than a million severely-disabled people who are in just as much need as help in colder months as older folk. That doesn't refer to all disabled people, only those with limited mobility, such as the wheelchair-bound. Many find themselves at home for long periods each day, and consequently need central heating to keep warm. But when money is tight – and few of them are able to earn any income – something has to go.



Research from the disability charity Papworth Trust reveals that disabled people are three times more likely than non-disabled to stay at home during the daytime in winter months. But, crucially, they are twice as likely to go without heating, food, clothes and leisure activities because of a lack of money.



Without the payment, hard-up people could be forced to choose between whether to heat or eat during the cold months. Cutting back on heating because they can't afford it can be a disastrous decision. Last winter, more than 36,700 pensioners died of cold-related illnesses, according to Dot Gibson of the National Pensioners Convention.



"Winter fuel payments were intended to alleviate financial hardship for people whose health could be more at risk if they did not turn on their heating," says the Papworth Trust's chief executive, Adrian Bagg. "They can be a lifeline for those whose health would be more at risk if they did not turn on their heating. We urge the Coalition to extend the payments to severely disabled people."



It may seem unlikely that the current government would agree to extend the payment to severely-disabled people while it is in the process of making massive cutbacks. However the money can be found, especially as the Government has already announced plans to raise the eligibility age to 65 by 2020.



Extending fuel payments to severely disabled people, while at the same time bringing forward the age of eligibility increase, could actually make a small yearly saving for the Treasury until at least 2014, according to Papworth Trust. Alternatively, the payment could become means tested which would free up the cash saved from wealthier older people, who don't actually need the payment, which could then be passed on to severely disabled people who do.



The Papworth Trust is calling for changes to the system at the October spending review. Success could mean a crucial difference for more than a million struggling disabled people.



Case study: Rob Nixon



For six years, Rob Nixon has been wheelchair-bound after developing multiple sclerosis. The disease forced him to give up his job as a mortgage broker in 2004, and he's been virtually confined to his home since.



"Although my brain's good, my body's given up," he says. "I can't even write or hold a pen so I have found it impossible to get work."



Rob survives on incapacity benefit, so money is tight. "I'm still paying off last year's heating bill," he says. "I'm not extravagant with money and I refuse to get into debt."



He volunteers one day a week but spends the rest of the time at home, so his heating bills soar during the winter. "I'm more vulnerable from the cold than many people because I can't walk around to keep warm.



"The winter fuel payment should be means-tested and go to people who really need it. I know some older people who it makes little difference to, but it would make a huge difference to me."



Getting the basic £250 payment would cut his heating bills by 20 per cent, he says.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Sales Executive

    £20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

    Payroll & Accounts Assistant

    £20 - 24k + Benefits: Guru Careers: This is a great opportunity for an enthusi...

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £280 - £320 p/d - 6 months

    £280 - £320 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Senior BA - Insurance **URGENT**

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week