'Target winter fuel benefit to pay for elderly care'


MP Paul Burstow says savings could be used to help people with "horrendous care bills"

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Winter fuel payments should be means-tested to help pay for care of the elderly, a former minister has said.

A report by Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow said targeting the allowance would help pay for a fairer social care system.

The report said it could fund most of the £1.7bn cost of implementing reforms of elderly care in England.

While David Cameron said universal benefits for pensioners would be protected the BBC understands ministers are poised to back a cap on care costs.

Last year the Dilnot Commission recommended that the cap on the amount individuals have to pay towards their social care be set at £35,000 over a lifetime.

The commission, set up by the government, argued that such a move would protect people from catastrophic care costs that result in them having to sell their homes.

At the time, ministers said a cap was the "right basis" for change but they needed to look at other cheaper options.

The BBC's chief political correspondent Norman Smith said there were growing signs that a commitment to a cap could be included in the coalition's mid-term review expected to be published shortly.

Start Quote

We appreciate that the country is facing difficult financial times , but we must be careful that the wider implications for older people of any potential source of funding are fully considered”

End Quote Michelle Mitchell Age UK

As things stand, older people in England have to pay for their care costs if they have assets of more than around £23,250. Similar systems exist in Wales and Northern Ireland, but in Scotland personal care is provided free.

Under the proposals from Mr Burstow and the Centre Forum, the cap on the amount people should pay towards social care costs would be set at £60,000 but the amount of assets people could hold would rise to £100,000.

They said winter fuel allowance should be limited to those receiving pension credit.

Pension credit takes into account savings and income, and only the poorest retired people qualify to receive it.

The move would save £1.5bn a year and mean about three-quarters of current recipients would lose the allowance, which is worth between £200 and £300 per household, Mr Burstow's report explains.

The report also proposed ending the relief on capital gains tax at death. This would raise another £600m a year, it said.

A trade-off

Mr Burstow, the former care services minister, said: "Social care isn't free, but it could be a lot fairer for those who have worked hard all their lives.

"By concentrating the winter fuel payment on those eligible for pension credit, we can pay for a cap on care costs."

He said there were 100,000 pensioners with incomes of more than £100,000 a year and questioned whether it was "right" to continue to pay them winter fuel allowance as many of them admitted to using the money for other things.

David Cameron: "I made a very clear promise at the election which was that we would keep the payment"

Michelle Mitchell, of Age UK, said introducing a cap on social care costs would "lift one of the great fears of becoming older".

But she urged caution over taking away other benefits from the elderly.

"We appreciate that the country is facing difficult financial times, but we must be careful that the wider implications for older people of any potential source of funding are fully considered."

'Best model'

The suggestion that winter fuel payments should be targeted comes amid rising controversy about the allowance and amid the continuing debate over how to pay for long-term care for the elderly.

Any commitment to a cap would be significant, Norman Smith added, as previous governments had shied away from such a move due to the huge cost implications involved.

However, he said no details of the level at which a cap would be set, how it would be paid for and when it would come into effect were likely to be given.

Earlier on Thursday, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK had a "long way to go" if it was to be regarded as one of the best places in Europe to grow old.

"There is no doubt capping costs - the principle recommended by Dilnot - is the best model. The key question is how to fund it sensibly given the current deficit.

"We are looking at how to achieve this, along with taking action to ensure people do not have to sell their homes to pay for care."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    112. Some Lingering Fog "Pensioners must be the most mollycoddled section of society.."

    I agree - I mean my mother who spent 20 years as a full time carer for my severely disabled father, working what hours she could (legally) to bring pay her way, has been told that since he died last month, she is entitled to a full £130 per week pension. Sheer extravagance!
    Sarcasm mode off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Instead of cutting benefits to people who have paid into the system all their lives lets hound the real parasites on the civil list and bankers and politicians and people and companies who evade tax.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    There are 100,000 pensioners with incomes over £100,000! That means that their pension pot (at today's annuity rates) would need to be over £3M. Why should these people get this? You can't argue that they are employers who provide jobs as they are retired!

    We NEED a National Maximum Income as part of our tax system. Let those who get over £250,000 pay 100% tax!

    In it together! eh!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Just one more reason to spend it now, hide what savings you do have, avoid becoming entangled in a pension scheme and generally ensure that you are not paying a near effective 100% rate of tax on your old age income because you are disbarred from claiming benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    How about a concerted effort to stop energy company's charging a kings ransom to keep warm in winter? How about collecting the tax evaded & avoided by the rich?
    How about actually doing something about the banks?
    How about making it illegal to pay below a living wage?
    How about stopping train operators charging an arm & a leg for fares?

    How about representing the electorate not big business?

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Wealthier pensioners who say: "I've worked hard and paid taxes all my life" make me laugh. The fact is you HAVEN'T PAID ENOUGH. That's why there is such a large national debt, and we need fair means-testing for ALL benefits. There should be no cap on social care costs; most wealthier pensioners are bent on SKI-ing (Spending Kids Inheritance) anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    "45. str8lolly I am a pensioner, yet have never recieved any winter fuel payment? Nor has anyone asked me about it."
    The WFA is hardly a secret! Instead of moaning about not getting it, maybe you should contact someone in your local council about getting it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    What about free TV licences, bus passes and free prescriptions, eye tests, zimmer frames ?
    Just because these old people have worked all their lives and paid huge amounts of NI and tax both direct and indirect why do they think the state owes them something. Screw the oldies that what I say.
    But remember all the people clamouring to cut benefits to the oldies will be old one day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Why not also a location based check, those ex pats in spain / australia etc. surely shouldn't receive this

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    65.Some Lingering Fog
    "The benefit system is running out of control and has moved from it's original intention of being a safety net to .. entitlement for all and sundry."
    I'm for caps, not tinkering, but nothing is sacred to this bunch. The state pension has not been considered part of a "safety net" for many years, yet they would love to pillage it as if part of the benefits pot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    The problem with means testing, is it discourages people from saving, including providing for old age. What is the point in saving if you get given more money later if you don't save? We all see old people with nothing who are provided with social housing and benefits, who are often better off than those who have a small pension.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    All universal benefits should be applied to everybody applicable,
    Anybody receiving a benefit of any kind should have it treated as income and be taxed appropriately.
    This is just a goverment ploy to muddy the water and confuse the inland revenue and the general population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    What's wrong with with giving the eldery a winter fuel bonus. They are indoors during the day, when most of us have our heating off and are at work. My parents in law, get it, dont necessarily need it, and thus give it to charity. Without it they would probably give the same to charity, and forgo something elsewhere. All about choices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    We are £1,000,000,000,000 in debt and growing at over £150,000,000,000 per year.

    Just sayin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    If we weren't hosepiping vast sums of money away on futile "green" gestures, and if Ed Davey wasn't sending 2bn (yes, 2 with 9 zeroes after it) to the third world to deal with global warming/climate change/whetever they're calling it today, and if the previous administration hadn't embarked on a reckless spending spree lasting over a decade, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    I understand why many people living in the UK want the WFP stopped for people that are living abroad but they don't understand that it is frequently very cold in winter and electricity and wood are very expensive. Pensioners living there have paid into the UK tax system and are just as entitled to help if they need it. I needed it in Spain but don't now I'm back with CH and so give it to charity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    99. Gratters The Royal Family are in receipt of state support its called the Civil List. Perhaps we could means test that. I do agree that we should not allow state support for people to have large families, welfare should be there as a safety net to stop homelessness and help you get back on your feet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    How very sad that the public are distracted from the reality so easily.We the tax payers paid a fortune to support the bankers.... In America the Government is already in profit from that investment, and they still have shares to sell. We on the other hand, are giving away these assets to 'friends' of the government..... Yes lets rob the pensioners, and lets see how many young people stay arround

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    So, on this basis, we will penalise those who have contributed, paid in and worked, and yet give it to those pensioners who either didn't work (married women etc.,who paid a reduced stamp or who thought a full time career was looking after children) and those who didn't bother to save?

    Oh, well done, let's all loll around at home and then claim means tested benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    4. Geoffp
    Set benefits for non UK people to those commensurate with benefits in their own Countries. This would stop a lot of the economic migrants from Europe.
    Depends on the country. Set benefits at the Finnish level, and watch costs rise enormously. Wonder why little Finland can do it, and Britain seems unable?


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