OAPs will be given pittance to stay warm during Britain’s big freeze
Pensioners have been left out in the cold after the government offered a miserable sum of money to heat their homes.
With freezing temperatures across much of Britain and high fuel bills hitting working people and the elderly hardest, the government offered a mere £170 million as a one-off cold-weather payment.
Work and Pensions Minister Helen Goodman tried to reassure pensioners that help was “on the way” and that they should not worry about turning their heating on.
However, National Pensioners Convention (NPC) general secretary Dot Gibson said that payments were not automatic and only available to a lucky few.
“You have to be on means-tested support to qualify, which excludes the vast majority of older people, and you have to endure seven days of freezing temperatures before being able to receive any payment,” she said.
One of the conditions for receiving a payment is that the temperature must be 0 degrees Celsius or less for seven consecutive days.
About 12.3 million older people will receive winter fuel payments between £250 and £400.
The Conservative Party has in the past attacked the government over the whole concept of winter fuel payments, suggesting that they should be scrapped altogether.
Ms Gibson said there was a much more efficient way of ensuring older people get the help they deserve when they need it than a cold-weather payment.
“We would prefer to see the winter fuel allowance that reaches every pensioner household increased to £500 and paid across the board,” she demanded.
“The NPC thinks this is a more effective way of dealing with cold weather and the drop in temperature that we are currently experiencing.”
The government has also been heavily criticised for not exerting enough pressure on private energy companies which have not ruled out price rises.
Ms Gibson said that the NPC “would like to see an industry-wide social tariff where a set amount is paid per measure of energy with a lower amount for more vulnerable people.”
Twenty thousand mainly older people needlessly die from the cold each year, while many more become seriously ill.
According to recent National Housing Federation figures, some seven million households are currently in fuel poverty.
Despite wholesale electricity and gas prices more than halving, fuel bills only fell by a miserly 4 per cent in 2009, averaging £1,239 a year.
Green campaigners also stepped up calls for a “bold” approach to tackle fuel poverty – and in doing so, meet climate change targets for reducing carbon emissions.
WWF Scotland organiser Elizabeth Leighton urged the Scottish government to build on Westminster’s Warm Front scheme in England which offers grants of up to £6,000 for pensioners and single parents on benefits to insulate their homes.
And she insisted: “A bold, local authority-led, street-by-street approach with free loft and cavity wall insulation for all is the most effective means to make all homes low-carbon.”
Taken from Morning Star