Thousands of elderly lose fuel payment

Thousands of Britain's poorest pensioners are losing out on winter fuel payments despite Government assurances that the cash would be paid to everyone over 60,.

A press release from the Department of Social Security in December read: "The annual winter fuel payment will be payable to everyone over 60."

But an estimated 280,000 elderly residents of care homes will not get the £150 for heating bills because they are claiming income support. Yet 220,000 richer residents who do not get state assistance do qualify for the payment.

The Tories say the loophole goes against the spirit of a European Court of Justice ruling last year that said two million men over 60 were victims of sex discrimination because only pensioners qualified, which means women over 60 and men over 65.

The Tories are demanding a review. The shadow Social Security spokesman, David Willetts, said: "This is crazy. If you are wealthy and live in a home you receive the money; if you are poor you do not.

"This was a Treasury scheme that was never fully prepared in consultation with the DSS and I don't think Gordon Brown [the Chancellor] had fully thought through the implications.

"They need to go back to the drawing board and design a fairer scheme because this one is not fair. Instead of using existing measures and thinking through how best to help pensioners they have been looking entirely at how to get headlines in a Budget."

A spokesman for the DSS said: "People on income support have their heating paid for through income support. There is no double provision. It is being paid by the state already."

The same rules, he said, applied to people in prison and hospital patients.

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