Wednesday, 15 January 2020 16:07

Fewer Wiltshire pensioners receiving help to heat homes over winter Featured

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Fewer pensioners in Wiltshire are receiving financial help to keep them warm over winter than a decade ago, figures reveal.

Charity National Energy Action says cold weather has a "devastating" impact on frail and elderly people, with an estimated 10,000 deaths nationally caused from cold homes each winter.

Winter Fuel Payments were introduced in 1997 to tackle fuel poverty amongst pensioners.

Households with someone receiving a state pension are automatically entitled to a tax-free sum of between £100 and £300 each year towards the heating bill.

Payments are normally made in November or December.

The latest Department for Work and Pensions data shows 104,530 elderly people received winter fuel payments in Wiltshire in 2018-19, down 3% from 2009-10.

This mirrored the trend across Great Britain, where 11.6 million recipients were counted – a decrease of 9% over the period.

The most common sum handed to Wiltshire residents was £100, which accounted for more than two in five payments last year.

This support "could be lifesaving" for those who cannot afford to heat their home during the cold weather, said NEA director of policy and research Peter Smith.

He added: "Successive governments have recognised the need to end the cost and suffering of cold homes and that home energy improvements are a vital area to invest in.

"However, without further action on this key area, both fuel poverty and carbon targets will be missed and we will continue to see the devastating impact the cold has on frail and elderly people."

The DWP attributes the national fall in recipients over the last decade to controversial changes to the state pension age.

Successive governments have raised the state pension age for women in line with men.

Hiking up the age of entitlement for women meant fewer of them could claim winter fuel payments, according to the DWP.

It says this drop more than offset the increase in the overall number of pensioners in recent years.

In 2018-19, 54% of winter fuel claimants nationally were women – the same share as a decade ago.

A DWP spokesman said: "The Government makes more than 11.5 million winter fuel payments totalling £2 billion a year to help people pay their heating bills. Nearly all are automatic without the need to claim.

"As the state pension age for women has increased since April 2010 it follows that the annual numbers eligible for payments will fall slightly."

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