Winter Fuel Payments: Disability

Work and Pensions written question – answered on 21st July 2010.

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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he has made an estimate of the cost of extending eligibility for winter fuel payments to those severely disabled people in receipt of higher rate of mobility and core elements of disability living allowance.

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

Winter fuel payments are made to most people who have reached women's state pension age, including those who are severely disabled. Older people are targeted because they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of cold weather during the winter months.

Disability living allowance is specifically designed to help meet the extra costs of disability, including heating.

Based on the latest available caseload figures, the estimated annual cost increase in benefit expenditure were winter fuel payments to be extended to people receiving the higher rate mobility component or higher rate care component of disability living allowance would be approximately £250 million for winter 2010-11 (in 2010-11 prices), based on a £250 payment.

This is an upper estimate for the cost of extending winter fuel payments to this group as it includes those customers who may be living in a household that already receives a winter fuel payment. It is not possible to identify disability living allowance customers who would not be entitled to a winter fuel payment because they are living in households that already receive a winter fuel payment.

Additional help is available to severely disabled people through the disability premiums that are included in income-related benefits, such as income support, council tax benefit, housing benefit and pension credit. A combination of these premiums and the support received through disability living allowance means that the most vulnerable people can receive up to an approximate £8,000 per year in recognition of their extra costs.

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Rebecca Trengove
Posted on 26 Jul 2010 11:08 am (Report this annotation)

It is very important to note here that the extra benefits to which Mr Webb states the severely disabled receive are primarily used up in Care Costs towards Care Packages through "fairer" charging or ILF contributions. That is what DLA is for CARE. The severe disability premium is only paid if someone is living independently and entitled to Income Support. The only other benefit that would be paid to someone under 65 who is severely disabled would be Incapacity Benefit which is less than the single person's state pension. Therefore this "extra £8000" as he suggests is not available to provide extra money towards heating costs, all of it is either taken up in other living costs but primarily as previously stated in contributing towards Care Packages.

Clearly someone who is completely immobile needs to use more fuel than someone who is fully active regardless of their age. It is also important to note that considerable savings could be made to the government is it was linked to benefits across the board rather than paying out automatically to fit and healthy people just because they have reached retirement age regardless of income.

Linda Burnip
Posted on 26 Jul 2010 9:34 pm (Report this annotation)

MPs seem totally unaware that anyone receiving care through ILF have to pay half of their DLA and ALL of their severe disability premium towards this. Social Services charges leave anyone reciving care with the basic income support rate plus 25%. Also according to the government's own figures many LHA tenants pay at least £100 towards the shortfall in their rent in the private sector.

So could Mr Webb or some other politician who is allowed a relatively large sum of money per week to rent their London flat pleas eexplain to me how they think any severely disabled person has £8,000 per year to meet their additional disbility related needs.

Nevertheless because the pensioners lobby have argued vociferously that winter fuel paymenst to pensioners shouldn't be means teated we have situations where pensioners have over £150,000 in savings yet still get £450 per year fuel allowance. Where is the sense or justice in that when disabled people get nothing even if they have no savings?

Michele Javary
Posted on 26 Jul 2010 10:38 pm (Report this annotation)

It would appear that Mr Webb is fundamentally confused about the nature and purpose of the Disability Living Allowance. This is not a 'low income' or 'out of work benefit'.

I think it would be appropriate to remind Mr Webb that according to current estimates, that are approximately 11 million people in the UK who have some form of disability. If he looks at the Labour Force Survey, he will find that about 40% of people with work-limiting disabilities are actually in employment.. Something to remind him that 2.9 million DLA claimants does not sound so high considering. Therefore, only those deeply in need of support are eligible for DLA. Enhanced awareness of disability and the rights of disabled people potentially account for a significant rise in claims for DLA since the early 90s. Nothing 'machiavellic' or abusive on the part of claimants, but likely better information and help from some services to offer the support to fill in the complex 59-page long detailed form that accompanies such claims...

DLA provides support (funds) for specialised care services... This has nothing to do with winter fuel payments, which the government sees fit to continue to pay to very wealthy pensioners, with multiple properties (I have personal experience) here and abroad!! So the winter fuel payment goes keeping the (large)UK (first) house warmed through the big freeze while enjoying some time abroad to escape the drudgery of the winter, or popping up to the second house in London to enjoy an outing at the Theater!

Could the Minister give a breakdown for this incredible figure of £8000/year with details of what it entails?