One of the exhibitors at the SDLP Conference was a charity for Older People…which now sadly means ME. So in conversation with the guy on the stall it emerged that I am entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment…a benefit given to people over 60 to ease the burden of paying for home heating oil.
I had never really considered myself eligible. Other people I know received this without applying. You get it “automatically” if entitled. I assumed that the fact my wife is still under 60 and still working meant it is a means tested benefit.
So I called at a Benefits Centre today. The person I spoke to was not really sure that I qualified and had to take advice by phone. She also assumed that I would have got it automatically. So thru the (English-based) Dept of Works and Pensions, I established the following.
1 The only relevant point is being 60 or over at mid-winter….subject of course to actually living at home and not living abroad, being in prison, hospital or Old Folks home.
2 My wifes income …or mine for that matter…is not part of the equation. It is not “means tested”
3 I am 63 and have a “company pension”. I dont receive ANY Social Security Benefit.
4 The “automatic” payment is triggered thru being “in the system”. And in not receiving benefits, I am not in the system.
5 So the onus was on me…to tell Ian Duncan Smith ….that I am entitled. Seemingly, the scheme and its provisions are well advertised …well, not as far as I am aware.
6 But surely I AM on the system. As soon as I gave the call centre my National Insurance Number….naturally my Date of Birth appears.
7 Now the Good News …my phone call today means that they have “captured” my details. I am now on the system and will get Winter Fuel Payment for the rest of my life or until the Tories cut it. I will get my payment into my bank account in February.
8 Now the Bad News…the earlier years. No payments are paid retrospectively. Presumably if an old person survives the winter, it is clear that they didnt actually need the payment. There is no appeals procedure.
Now there are two ways of looking at this and Readers may choose to believe that the Welfare Bill is too high and a retrospective payment to a fairly intelligent, articulate man with a working wife would be unacceptable.
Or…there is the other way of looking at it. I was not in the system BECAUSE I have no other benefits but a person of my age (who was as ignorant as I was about entitlement) and receiving the same company pension …AND another state benefit would have got the money. Indeed a retired millionaire would be entitled.
It just annoys me.
So if you know anyone who is over 60….make sure they make a claim.