'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 859.

    And how long will it be before this Government make it almost impossible for the elderley who do need financial help to get it! why not start by cutting imigrants benefits lets see how much that saves per year, leave the elderly alone We will all get there one day

  • rate this

    Comment number 858.

    844. Steve the chauffeur

    Aren't a couple of these "wrinklies" your old mum and dad? One day you will be one of these "wrinklies" too. And won't you feel persecuted, if current trends are anything to go by.

  • rate this

    Comment number 857.

    Can some one tell me how the government get a saving of £1.6 billion,
    when winter fuel payment is £200 to £300 a yr. per house hold !00,000 pensioner to take it away from, some of who live in the same household. if they all lived on their own then that is not 1.6 billion Pounds. Its is less than £ 30 000 000 isn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 856.

    My dear old neighbours escape for at least six weeks every winter sunning themselves in Florida or Lanzarotte, their spending money provided courtesy of the winter fuel payment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 855.

    Any political party that adopts this policy will be unelectable and rightly be rediculed by the "pensioners" electorate. It will be political suicide; and add to the growing percentage of the population who spend now, save nothing because of the prospect of "Means Testing" and expect the country to keep them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 854.

    837. Steve the chauffeur

    Because we spend ever penny the country has on looking after the rich, why shouldn't things be equal in this fair-minded society of ours? As Just Call Me Dave-ros said, we are all in it together.

    Indeed you are right, you get the greedy, trampling on the vulnerable behaviour you reward.

  • rate this

    Comment number 853.

    Why is it that everyone seems to attack the elderly. I an 82 years old worked all my life payed all taxes due, never claimed unemployment. Now because I don't get benefits there is a wish to remove my fuel allowance.
    Politicians from all parties with all their allowances and protected pensions are safe yet want to take benefits from others. Reduce their own perks to show they care about costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 852.

    826. Tio Terry

    You only need to look at Eric Pickles to see where your taxes go. Even his surname is associated with food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 851.

    If we think we have a problem now, just wait, a few more years of working for minimum wage in an economy where its big corporations only all offshoring their profits and those jobs that there are go to immigrants.

    You wont be able to count the poor then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 850.

    Greedy young people again. If I am not on pension credits I will lose my Fuel and presumably my Bus Pass. In exchange rich people keep more of their savings.
    BASIC FLAW - When I am in a care home chronically ill my chances of coming out and spending my extra dosh are slim, so who will get the extra £75000 when I go? My useless under employed whining grasping children of the me generation. Humbug

  • rate this

    Comment number 849.

    The govt are suggesting taking the WFP off everyone over pension credit level (basically state pension level) so that people who own their own homes might not have to sell them for care costs
    So a relatively poor person in rented accommodation pays for this...but won't have to worry about losing a home....just being cold.

  • rate this

    Comment number 848.

    this is a tax and revenue issue there is not enough moeny to pay fo rthe required expenditures like WFA.

    there many peopel will have to pay more tax such as the tax evadors at the BBC

  • rate this

    Comment number 847.

    839 Fairsfair
    If you think the system works so well & it isn't theft, what is it? U worked, u created or earned the wealth, why should a bureaucrat take their "cut"?

    What service or product did the bureaucrat provide to society from which we benefited?

    Your mantra sounds terribly similar to this: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-eHU0Kw9YJo0/UASUuDvksPI/AAAAAAAAIfk/Gz9tAtxu5EM/s1600/Dumb-Dumb-Dumb.jpg

  • rate this

    Comment number 846.

    834.Pete Smith
    Whilst not disagreeing with you, have you ever wondered why, during their 13 years of opportunity, the previous Blair/Brown government did nothing to correct this situation? If they had done so then maybe we would not be in the state we are now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 845.

    The proposal makes sense, provided the money saved doesn't just pay for the means-testing bureaucracy and really does go to help care of the elderly

    The wfa isn't hypothecated which means there's no requirement on the Govt to redirect the spending on pensioners if its reduced/withdrawn/means tested or indeed to print/spend the money on anything

  • rate this

    Comment number 844.

    So now we want to take bus passes as well.

    I forsee roads clogged with Renault Clios all driven by wrinklies doing under 25 mph to say nothing of the extra accidents if we force people back off the buses into their cars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 843.

    I've worked all my life and have a very small company pension so no doubt I wouldn't get WF payment but all the workshy who've never worked will - typical

  • rate this

    Comment number 842.

    Get rid of the WFA - how else can I get my upgrade to premium economy on my annual trip to Barbados. Shame on you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 841.

    825.Underclass Underdog

    Mine goes to Help for Heroes - Headley Court is not far from me, I do some fund raising there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 840.

    @837: "Why do we only want to look after the poor people. Has it occurred
    to anyone that poorness is a consequence and not usually
    an accident. You get the behaviour you reward."

    Correct analysis, wrong target. Substitute "rich" and "richness" for "poor" and "poorness".


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