Okay folks, on past experience I am girding my loins for the response I may well get for daring to raise this. As I've written before on this website, to raise any issue concerning age 60+ benefits is akin to walking on eggshells.
But here goes.
It seems the government is yet again flying a kite with regard to the winter fuel payment for the 60+s and that it should not be a universal payment as it is now, but means tested.
Should it be means tested then the question is at what level of income should a 60+ person no longer become eligible for the payment?
I can see the sense of those 60+ who are mega rich not getting it but at what level of income should it cease (if it should cease that is).
I have read that it should only be available to those pensioners most in need. In which case that means those of state pension age (and remember that age is now about 62 years for women and rising quickly over the next few years to 66 years of age for both sexes) and then only for those who are the very poorest pensioners - ie those who are eligible for pension credit.
Let us imagine the latter scenario comes into play (ie only those eligible for pension credit would be eligible for the winter fuel allowance). Would it then be right and fair that, say, a 66+ year old who had saved and contributed to a pension all of her/his working life and gone without things in order to do so, should not be eligible for the winter fuel payment when, living right next door, or across the road or whatever, is another person who has done nothing but spend whatever money was earnt throughout their whole lives and who then find themselves in penury in old age.
I pose this question not out of devilment but because I already know pensioners (as indeed I suspect we all do) who are pretty miffed about their having saved all their lives for their old age and thus who do not qualify for any means tested benefits, whilst right next door is someone of the same age and of very similar work/life history who never saved anything, has no private pension and who claims pension credit and thus any other benefits that being on pension credit triggers off.
And now you must excuse me - I'm off to find my body armour ..............
Lynne you are brave but there are those who maybe shouldnt qualify for arguments sake those living abroad in Spain, Australia the warmer parts of the world it could be argued that we are subsidising there power suppliers.
Okay , I can hear an argument for those living outside of this country, especially those living in warmer climates, not getting it. Would it be cost effective though? Like, would the administrative costs of their not getting it be greater than the savings made? Dunno. Just thinking out loud.
I have just been looking at a poll on AOL as follows.
Should OAPs have their winter fuel payments cut to raise cash to fund elderly care.
Yes if they can afford it 20%
Yes if they live abroad 44%
No they all deserve it 36%
Total votes 14732
this link should take you to the AOL article
if you scroll down to the bottom of the page some of the comments make for interesting reading.
Excellent comments!!! Agree stop foreign aid/ immigration / and get out of the EU maybe we would be in a better position then
Good post Lynne,
I agree to a point that the heating allowance should be for those that could ill afford their heating bills. This country is full of benefits for people that have not paid one penny into the system. Case in point, i read in the newspaper that Roumania and Bulgaria have been waiting for 2013 to come around. Under EU rules it will now allow 29 million, yes 29 million to come into this country this year and able to claim FULL benefits. Does anyone on this forum beleive that this is right. I wonder how many of them will get a heating allowance with no means testing, they will all get it as most have no means at all. However the Government are down playing this issue.
Brazilnut i couldn't agree with you more.
Plenty of people in this county who have done b***** all all their life, played the system and reap the 'benefits'. Perhaps we can do a swap with those people in Romania and Bulgaria who are prepared to work for a living and pay into the system.
@Brooklyn Bridge. i've just found out that 60 million, yes 60 million, britons could move to another eu country if they wanted!!!!!!!!!! and, of course, we all will won't we? give your head a wobble eh?
Perhaps it would be a better idea if the rip off German and French energy suppliers who currently hold this country to ransom lost their profit making monopolies, and where forced to introduce a special low tariff for over 65s. That is providing they are the sole occupiers of their property
Just for once I agree with Lynne. But this argument can be put for all benefits. Those of us that have saved get none, while others seem to get it all. Where is the incentive for youngsters to save?
It's very difficult to implement in this country or abroad. I think most of us agree that an ex-pat living somewhere near the equator shouldn't get it but what about Spain, Cyprus etc? Those countries do get colder in the winter. I went out to Cyprus some years ago when we had snow on the ground here. On arrival we were sweltering and going around in shorts and T-shirts. The locals though were wearing overcoats! I suppose coldness is relative to the temperature you are used to.
Recently, a Care Home locally got into trouble for making their residents hand over the Winter Fuel Allowance as they had all their costs included in the rent. The powers that be decided that this was not legal as the residents paid an average throughout the year which included additional heating costs for when cold weather set in. This was rolled out across the country and more than one of the more modern, better insulated homes pointed out that the total Winter Fuel Payments received by their residents equalled more than the total fuel bill for the year! That can't be right.
I think the only fair way of doing it is to assess each individual but how much would that cost to do?
And then of course each individual's circumstances could well change from year to year.
First off though I bet they ( the government) change the age of being entitiled to WFA from age 60 (which was the state retirement age for women and therefore men had to be entitled to it at the same age as well) to the new state retirement age of 66+ which is what the state retirement age will be for those born April 1954 or later, come circa 2020.
I think I'm right that entitlement to bus passes is already linked to state retirement age (women's state retirement age that is) so I can see the WFA easily going the same way. (I say that on the basis that I understand that the WFA is presently paid out when a person hits age 60 - please someone correct me if I am wrong about that).
PS Yes,agree with you Huw about Mediterranean countries being cold in winter. I can remember some 30 odd years ago travelling to Italy in February. In Tuscany and Umbria there was snow on the ground (mind you I do remember seeing oranges growing further south in the Naples area).
So......not only is it difficult to assess need inside this country but that difficulty is potentially even more so for expats living in different parts of other countries.
WFA is paid to all who are over 60 , retired or not Although if you are not in receipt of state pension you will probable have to make a claim for it.
and remember if a couple are both over 60 it only gets paid between them
Seems there are moves afoot to change pensioner benefits come the next general election.
The most likely cut will be to free prescriptions, listen to the talk of NHS costs and it would be a great one to target. Just think if the pensioners cannot afford their medicines they will pass away and that solves many things all in one go. No pensions to pay, no bus passes to fund, reduced ederly care home costs to the goverment and all those empty houses for others to buy at very reduced prices. From the politicians point of view the ultimate answer.
I've got a variation on that theme Kenny which is...........why not cut out paying state pension to those who have private retirement incomes over a certain amount - say, more than £50,000 pa?
After all if they have an income of that or more then why on earth do they need a state pension let alone bus passes, winter fuel allowances, tv licences etc.
I don't live in the world that such people live in but I imagine that to them at what age they qualify for the state pension, how much they get and what other benefits come with it is far from as crucial to them than it is to the rest of us who live further down the socio-economic food chain. As I put forward in my opening posting, we who live where I live are very aware, need to be aware, have to be aware, of how much we will get and when and how unfair the outcome can be to those who have saved for their old age.
And I say the above based on the principle of means testing. Why not means test the need for a state pension if means testing is being suggested for winter fuel allowances, bus passes etc.
I wonder how much money would be saved by the taxpayer if those with a retirement income of over £50,000pa became ineligible for the state pension irrespective of how many years they had paid in and I wonder how much those retirees would 'appreciate' that suggestion?
80% of the people in this country qualify for free prescriptions not just pensioners, why not charge a £1 an item right across the board, and then maybe it would stop people asking for parecetamol on prescription, I pay on average 16p for 16, if you need more than you are allowed by law have a word with the pharmacist as Ive done many a time.
Lynne I understand where you are coming from but these big earners have most probably paid a lot in NI in their lifetime, and surely that would put the whole State Pension Scheme in jeapordy!!!!
NI is just another form of tax. It gets spent by whatever government is in power on whatever that government wants to spend it on at the time that they receive it.
NI contributions are not ringfenced for welfare/NHS spending only and they are certainly not put aside for spending sometime in the future on individuals who have paid it in the form of state pensions.
The state pension scheme, and all other forms of welfare benefits and public expenditure are paid for by those taxes being collected today by those in work (income tax), buying things and services (VAT) and all the other forms of taxes (unless of course you're a multinational company and have found ways and means of avoiding paying millions of pounds worth of tax owed to this country).
I'm just trying to suggest other ways of mean testing pensioner benefits that's all and by using the government's chosen criteria to do so - means testing.
I'm not advocating it. The government is.
Just watch the mission creep on all of this - (and who gets hit the hardest!).
Maybe you are more knowledgeable in these matters than I am, but my State Pension was based on my NI contributions, thats why I said what I did. Im still working and paying tax Ive no private pension, and claimed my state pension rather than leave it until 65 as I thought Id get something back in case I departed this life before then
Yes, you are correct in that whether or not you are eligible for a state pension (and how much) is based on how many years you paid NI (or had NI credited as though paid).
I believe it is 30 years worth of NI contributions now (at least that what the piece of paper I received from HM Government says - but of course they (HMG) can always move the goal posts like they have been doing of late).
But......the money you paid, as you paid it, was being spent by whichever government was in power at the time.
And I do understand the 'getting something back' mentality. Which is why means testing winter fuel allowances/bus passes etc so pees me off.
If they have to be means tested then means test the richer (eg those with a retirement income of 50k plus). Not those whose income is below that amount.
Id paid NI all my working life since 15 and only missed a total of 3yrs due to children, Ive always paid in full for everything, as I need regular medication (since I was 30) always had a prescription prepayment.
I think you are right in what you say about means testing but think it should be people who have no more than £25000 per year, after all if you have savings of £16000 you get no help for other benefits.
Lynne you have to be aware that at present the state pension is made up of two (or more) parts, the basic state pension and then there are extras based on individual NI contributions both pre and post 1997 and add to this the old graduated national insurance contributions. So for a lot of people their own contributions into the NI system do make up a large part of their individual state pension, just because they have worked hard and paid huge amounts of taxes that they should not have a right to this money.
You may think that £50,000 is a lot of money but if you have to pay a mortgage of £450,000 and lived in London with its greatly increased cost of living you may find that you cannot manage.
I am fully expecting after the next general election, regardless of who wins, entitlement to bus passes, winter fuel allowances, free prescriptions and a lot of other benefits will have to be changed or cut out altogether. All of this is because of the lax rules that allow some people and companies to get away with benefit fraud or tax avoidance, what we need is a goverment that deals with these inequalites and ineffeciences and revamps the company tax rules so that Amazon, Starbucks and others pay tax based on the profits made from sales generated in the UK and from past performance that will not happen whoever gets elected next time.
For the present the goverment needs to fully focus on sorting out the rules so that correct taxes are paid and that the benefits system is fair to all. The present goverment does not seem to be that focused at present.
Maybe one day when we have a true big society when we can all have our say and be listened too and have our Politicians listen to what we are saying society will be better.
£25,000pa after tax? So, say £35,000 gross pa? Isn't that how the government worked out the new (wef April this year) in total allowance for a family totally reliant on benefits? £25,000 per family per year max. Apparently to have a net income of £25,000 someone would have to have a gross income of £35,000 or so I seem to remember various government ministers saying.
So........ how about retirees with a gross annual income of £35,000 (which given that they would still be taxed on that) would reduce it down to £25,000 or thereabouts, no longer being eligible for wfa/free bus passes etc?
I only suggested 50k pa being the cut off point as I understand that is the salary level at which child benefit is now stopped. (But only if the one parent earns £50k or more. If two parents earn £49K each = £98k pa they can still claim child benefit. How's that for fairness then?).
So, would we be looking at a retirement income of £35,000 pa per person? or per household? Could we have two retirees in the same household with an income of £34,000 gross each still being eligible for wfa/bus passes etc whilst next door where one person has a retirement income of £35,000 and the person living with them has a retirement income of £10,000 not being eligible for wfa/bus passes etc.?
Would that be fair?
Things can get just soooooooooo complicated can't they once means testing gets going.
Flat rate state pension of £155 per week wef 2015?
Yes Lynne its a minefield
So what happens to all that pre and post 97 additional NI and graduated NI contributions that millions of us have paid.
What worries me is trying to make things "Fairer" means making things more complicated and all my working life I have had to deal with certain goverment departments that seem to be unable to understand the rules that goverments make. More complicated means more stress for the common working man and more errors.
NI contributions; you could ask our MP about that Kenny. You'll get a response no doubt but whether it will be one that directly and specifically answers your questions may be debatable. Based on my own experience of her responses I wouldn't bet on it. Whenever I get a letter back from her I always have in mind a picture of a student looking at an exam paper and thinking "OMG I don't really know the answer to that question so I'll just write down anything I know that is to do with the subject being asked about.". Still, she's a politician and no doubt other people in other constituencies with other MPs have exactly the same problem with eliciting answers to specific and awkward (operative word is 'awkward') questions.
(PS Feel sure you meant to include both the common and otherwise variety of working woman as well as the common working man in your statement above )
My sincere apologies for the error, I should have said "common working person". I have written to MP's of various parties on many occasions, that includes Tony Blair and David Cameron and todate I can honestly say I have never had a satisfactory answer to my questions. I asked David Cameron why I did not get to vote on the Dawlish Neighbour Hood plan.
On the subject of my NI contributions I will wait until I find the answer appearing on HMRC staff area for systems that I have access to. Its quicker in the end and it will show me what will happen not what the Politicians say.
MPs have told the watchdog reviewing their pay that they deserve a 32% hike to £86,250.
A survey carried out by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) also found more than a third believe they should keep generous final salary pensions.
The findings emerged as Ipsa published a report on its initial consultation into pay and pensions, which ended last month. The research, which politicians completed anonymously, found that 69% thought they were underpaid on £65,738. The average level suggested for the salary was £86,250.
So no state pension, winter fuel allowance or bus pass for them then.