MSE News: Winter fuel payments cut in secret Budget measure

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    clemmatis wrote: »
    My mother, who died at the age of 89 ten years ago, had a monthly DD, it cost her money as they were always overestimating her usage. I am 65, I pay by quarterly direct debit i.e. they get no money from me till a month after I've had the bill. There's enough in my interest-paying current account to meet my bills.

    My mother underheated the house. I keep it comfortably warm.

    How old are you?
    If they kept over estimating could readings not be provided? If they could not then wouldn't she not just have to pay the overestimate a monthly later instead? Or she would have to keep phoning the company every month or quarter and keep telling them the estimate was too high.
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  • Marisco
    Marisco Posts: 42,036 Forumite
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    I'm with Eon and do the whole lot online!!:) I pay DD every month and have discounts for that, and for having "paperless" bills. I send in readings so they are also accurate. I was a £103 in credit the quarter before last, and £96 this quarter, they keep sending me letters that my DD is going down, so I keep phoning them to tell them to keep it like it is!!! That way I have no worries about using it!!
  • sardine
    sardine Posts: 131 Forumite
    edited 24 March 2011 at 3:18PM
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    Winter fuel payments were originally set up to help out at a time when the elderly had difficulty in paying their winter fuel bills. It now seems that everyone takes it as being yet another 'guaranteed' top up of their general income!

    I have no problems with a payment being made when winter comes round every year, but surely should the amount not be limited to the EXTRA cost over and above what the normal average bills are throughout the rest of the year?

    They seem to now be expecting a payment to cover the WHOLE winter bill!! What has happened to the amount that they would have set aside each month?

    In our case we pay £91pm (£1092pa) for both gas and electric. Our winter bill pushed that annual figure up to £1224. The excess £132 is the extra amount it cost us. The payment should therefore be £132, not £132 + £91, or even £132 + £91 x 3! We actually received £250 - £118 more than what the extra cost us.

    I would suggest that we are a fairly normal elderly couple who both have disabilities, and would have no objection to the the WFP being say £150 - a saving of £100 per household. With that, we make a little on it and the government make a saving.
  • DUKE
    DUKE Posts: 7,360 Forumite
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    I'm sure it would work out cheaper for the government to pay one winter fuel bill for the elderly rather than dole out hundreds of pounds in cash payments. Seeing as this payment gets sent out around Christmas time I very much doubt that it gets spent on fuel.
  • sardine
    sardine Posts: 131 Forumite
    edited 24 March 2011 at 3:50PM
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    DUKE wrote: »
    I'm sure it would work out cheaper for the government to pay one winter fuel bill for the elderly rather than dole out hundreds of pounds in cash payments. Seeing as this payment gets sent out around Christmas time I very much doubt that it gets spent on fuel.

    It doesn't in our household! As I mentioned, I have already budgeted to pay £91 every month, so the difference of £132 put us back on track. The rest (£118) was used for Christmas - presents, food etc.

    I am not the only one that does this, many of our friends and family use it as a 'freebie' to make Christmas that little bit easier on the wallet.

    Those over 80 have it even more better. my father who is in his mid 80's received £400 last winter. Yet again he has a DD budget of £62pm. His 'extra' for the winter was £102 over and above what he had budgeted for. So £298 went towards the cost of his annual 3 week cruise holiday in the Caribbean! He says that he needs it to get away from the cold UK weather and that is what the payment is for - to make it more comfortable for him and to have some sun!!! I've argued with him black and blue that that isn't what it is paid for!!!
  • mrsspendalot
    mrsspendalot Posts: 3,238 Forumite
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    My Nanna gets the larger payment for over 80s but she doesn't need the money, or use it for her winter fuel bill. She is a wealthy pensioner, with far more disposable income than most families would have, and more money in the bank and tied up in her property than most too. She just sees it as a bonus to pop away in her savings account. She still doesn't put the heating on anymore than she would do normally, which isn't a lot, as she sits in the house with her coat on instead if it is cold! Meanwhile, when she comes to ours to visit, or to my mums, she moans it's cold and asks us to turn the heating up, even though we struggle with the cost of winter heating and don't get the payment to help!

    I think the payment should be at least means-tested so only those pensioners on low incomes get it, or as another poster has commented, maybe pay it straight to the energy supplier so it actually goes on the fuel bill. I know it would be costly to means test, but surely giving money away to every pensioner whether they need it or not is just as costly? Families on high incomes are being stripped of universal child benefit, so pensioners on high incomes should probably be stripped of universal winter fuel payments too.
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  • beecher2
    beecher2 Posts: 3,677 Forumite
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    I think the payment should be at least means-tested so only those pensioners on low incomes get it, or as another poster has commented, maybe pay it straight to the energy supplier so it actually goes on the fuel bill. I know it would be costly to means test, but surely giving money away to every pensioner whether they need it or not is just as costly? Families on high incomes are being stripped of universal child benefit, so pensioners on high incomes should probably be stripped of universal winter fuel payments too.
    I don't think it would be costly to means test - just give it to people receiving pension credit, similarly to the cold weather payments.
  • sardine
    sardine Posts: 131 Forumite
    edited 24 March 2011 at 4:16PM
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    My Nanna gets the larger payment for over 80s but she doesn't need the money, or use it for her winter fuel bill. She is a wealthy pensioner, with far more disposable income than most families would have, and more money in the bank and tied up in her property than most too. She just sees it as a bonus to pop away in her savings account. She still doesn't put the heating on anymore than she would do normally, which isn't a lot, as she sits in the house with her coat on instead if it is cold! Meanwhile, when she comes to ours to visit, or to my mums, she moans it's cold and asks us to turn the heating up, even though we struggle with the cost of winter heating and don't get the payment to help!

    I think the payment should be at least means-tested so only those pensioners on low incomes get it, or as another poster has commented, maybe pay it straight to the energy supplier so it actually goes on the fuel bill. I know it would be costly to means test, but surely giving money away to every pensioner whether they need it or not is just as costly? Families on high incomes are being stripped of universal child benefit, so pensioners on high incomes should probably be stripped of universal winter fuel payments too.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you.

    We only need half of what we are sent, my father doesn't need it at all (like your Nana, he is quite wealthy and still manges to save most of his OAP every week.)
    In fact his old gas central heating boiler was condemned a few weeks back. Within three days he had a new system installed by British Gas at a cost of £2,000. Fine, but not when he told me that he went to one of his banks to draw a counter cheque for it and found that there was more in the account after he had drawn the cheque out than there was when he first walked in. It seems he had not had that account updated since Nov 2010 for interest payments!
    Many times he has returned from Australia after his annual summer 4 week holiday to find that there was more in his normal current account than there was before he set off, and having used that account for the holiday!!!

    So yes it should be means tested (ideally only those in receipt of Guaranteed Pension Credit) would get any help.
    Those that get the help, it should be restricted to the 'extra' cost say £150, not £250 and certainly not £400!!!
  • KxMx
    KxMx Posts: 10,618 Forumite
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    SingleSue wrote: »
    Must be an age thing, my parents won't switch to a monthly direct debit either and still insist on receiving a quarterly bill...and they won't switch suppliers either!

    That's a bit rude! I am 24 and live with Mum who is 53. We can't afford to be spending hundreds a month on Direct Debits (which often bear no refelection on actual usage) so we have quarterly bills. £150 for the gas and electric combined this past winter quarter (all covered by the Post Office Budget Card too, we load on money in between bills) We are careful but don't go cold I assure you!

    And when I move out I am certainly sticking with quarterly bills!

    I can see though from a budgeting perspective DD's can be useful. But the same goes for quarterly bills and a PO card!
  • markwallace
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    SingleSue wrote: »
    . ...mind you, they could turn their heating down a little, it's like a sauna in their house in the winter, we arrive in jumpers and coats and within 5 minutes, we are all sitting there in T shirts!

    Temperature is such an individual preference. An older person with poor mobility may well need their living room heated in excess of the recommended 21° C, whereas those who are active would "melt" at 21° .
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