David Cameron rejects winter fuel allowance cut for pensioners

 

David Cameron rejected calls to means-test winter fuel payments today, insisting he would stick to an election pledge not to cut state help for pensioners.

The Prime Minister stuck to his guns after ex-care minister Paul Burstow said all but the poorest OAPs should be stripped of the cash.

In a report for the Centre Forum think-tank, the Liberal Democrat said the savings would help pay for long-delayed reforms to the social care system.

With austerity cuts starting to bite, there is mounting pressure for well-off over-65s to be stripped of the right to help such as fuel payments and free bus passes.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has been pressing for a stop to universal benefits and Tory Charities Minister Nick Hurd urged rich pensioners last week to donate their fuel cash to charity.

It is worth £200 for the over-60s, rising to £300 for the over-80s.

But Mr Cameron, who made a commitment to protect such benefits central to his general election campaign, said he would not be budged.

"I made a very clear promise at the election that we would keep the winter fuel payments alongside the other pensioner benefits as they were, and that's a promise I'm keeping," he said.

Mr Burstow's call for the payment to be restricted to those eligible for pension credit - around a quarter - sparked warnings from campaigners that it could lead to more winter deaths.

Both the National Pensioners Convention and Saga said that at a time of rising fuel bills, the cash was key to some people being able to heat their homes.

Mr Burstow has been a vocal critic of the failure to reform elderly care since losing his position in September's reshuffle, accusing George Osborne's Treasury of blocking progress.

The Government has indicated that it accepts the principle of a blueprint drawn up by economist Andrew Dilnot more than a year ago but cannot agree on how it should be funded.

Mr Burstow suggested costs could be cut by around £1.5 billion if individuals were asked to contribute £60,000 to their care before the state steps in, rather than the £35,000 Dilnot proposal.

Currently, elderly people in England have to contribute to their own care costs if they have savings of more than £23,000, forcing many to sacrifice their life savings and sell family homes.

"A cap at £60,000, plus a means test being lifted from its current £23,250 to £100,000, would actually cost about £8.4 billion in the life of the next Parliament," Mr Burstow told the BBC.

"We can meet that by having a trade-off between those currently receiving the winter fuel allowance and not receiving it in the future but actually that being targeted on the poorest and the savings being used to ensure the frail, those who have dementia, those that are disabled, can have the peace of mind of knowing they don't face those catastrophic care costs."

He questioned whether it was right that 100,000 pensioners with incomes over £100,000 received the fuel payment, especially when many said it was spent on other things.

And he said he hoped the Government would "finally face up to its responsibilities and take action" on the care reform issue.

Saga director general Ros Altman said means-testing payments could backfire by discouraging people from saving for their retirement in the first place.

And she warned lives were at risk.

"Every winter, over 20,000 pensioners die of cold in this country and these 'excess winter deaths' would increase if more pensioners were denied their winter fuel payment," she said.

"It is likely to mean more people deciding not to bother to look after themselves, since they see colleagues who may have chosen not to bother setting aside sums for the future receiving far more."

Taxing the payments or raising the age of eligibility could be considered, she said, but the principle of universality should be protected.

Convention general secretary Dot Gibson said Mr Burstow's proposal would create a "costly and inefficient bureaucracy" which would discourage people who really needed the money from claiming.

"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.

"Suggesting that these pensioners are well-off and should pay for the care of other older people is simply ridiculous."

Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne called for a resumption of cross-party talks.

He said: "The Government is completely out of touch with the immediate care crisis. Instead of sticking their heads in the sand, they should engage in serious cross-party talks so we can get a proper agreement across all the political parties about how we fund long-term care in future."

PA

Sport
formula oneLive lap-by-lap coverage of championship decider
News
Lily Allen performs on stage at Splendour In the Grass 2014 on 27 July, 2014, in Byron Bay, Australia
people
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
Sport
Manny Pacquiao lands a blow on Chris Algieri
Pacquiao retains WBO welterweight title – and says he wants Mayweather next
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
News
i100
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin