This piece first appeared in The Daily Telegraph on 4 January 1999
The text here may not be identical to the published text

Warm response from the heart to a heated appeal

The Government's £20 Winter Fuel Payment for pensioners will be sent out over the next four weeks and older people who do not need it to pay their fuel bills are being urged to pass it on to help someone who needs it by giving it to charity. Last year, nearly 2000 generous Money-go-Round readers gave away their payments raising £38,000 for Help the Aged. This year, the The Daily Telegraph is once again opening its Warm Hearts Appeal and inviting our older readers to make sure that the £20 payments are used for their intended purpose - to help those older people who cannot afford to keep warm.

Michael Lake, the Director-General of Help the Aged told Money-go-Round how the money had been used.

"The money was well spent. We were able to provide vulnerable older people with fuel grants and supply extra funding for day centres where older people were able to enjoy a hot meal with friends. This winter many pensioners will still have to choose between heating and eating. The Warm Hearts Fund is a wonderful opportunity to help make the winter months less miserable for thousands of pensioners."

The Winter Fuel Payment was first paid last winter to all pensioners as part of Labour's new deal for older people. The payment is at two levels - £50 is given to any pensioner or pensioners couple whose income is low enough that they claim income support. About 1.5 million of those payments were made in November. But another 8.5 million pensioners whose incomes are above the £70.45 level for qualifying for income support also get an automatic Winter Fuel Payment at the lower rate of £20, or £10 each if they share a home with other pensioners. These payments will be sent out this month. They are not means-tested and although most pensioners do need the money, many do not. Walter Elkan, Emeritus Professor of Economics at Brunel University is one. He started his 'give it charity' campaign last year.

"I am able to pay my fuel bills out of my income. There is a sizeable minority like me who do not really need the payment and wouldn't miss it. I shall certainly pass mine on. The Government makes the Winter Fuel Payment to people on incomes like mine because it would be very difficult and expensive to devise a way of targeting it which does not inadvertently cut our some who really need it."

His thoughts were echoed by Money-go-Round reader Susan Copinger-Symes

"I was very pleased last year when I read in The Daily Telegraph last year that you were organising collecting the payment from people like me who wanted to do some good with it. I'm not a millionaire but I don't feel I need this extra money. I have my late husband's army pension and the state retirement pension. It is very good of the Government to think of older people and give them this extra money for their heating. I shall definitely be passing mine on again this year so it can help people who need it. I mentioned it to my friends last year and I know at least one joined me. £38,000 is a brilliant result."

This year Help the Aged says any donated payments will be spent on helping older people heat their homes, instal home insulation, and provide hot meals in day centres.

The £20 Winter Fuel Payment will be made during January. People who get their pension paid into a bank or building society will get a letter telling them when the extra money will be credited. Those who collect their pension from the Post Office will be given a giro for the extra money when they collect their pension. The payment will be made to men over 65 and women over 60 who got a retirement pension (including graduated retirement benefit, widow's benefit, and various disability benefits) on November 9 1998. Some people will not get it. They include people who have been in hospital for more than a year, people who live abroad, and of course people who get income support and got the £50 in November will not qualify.

Anyone who has a query about the Winter Fuel Payment or does not get it by the end of January can ring a Benefits Agency help line on 0645 151515. The lines are open on weekdays from 8.30am to 4.30pm. Calls are charged at local rates. A leaflet setting out the rules is available from Citizens Advice Bureaux and Benefits Agency offices.

If you would like to donate your Winter Fuel Payment please send a cheque made payable to Help the Aged to : Lisa Burton, Help the Aged, Freepost Lon 13041, PO Box 203 London EC1B 1DG. Or telephone the special Warm Hearts telephone line open 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday on 0171 250 4481. For advice on any aspect of keeping warm in winter or on anything else to do with old age, pensioners and those who care for them can ring the Help the Aged SeniorLine on 0800 65 00 65 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday. The call will be free of charge.

4 January 1999

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