Monday, February 29, 2016

The Winter Fuel Payment

This is a copy of a document sent to the DWP on 29th February 2016.
The Subject concerns the Statutory Instrument 2014 no. 3270 tabled before Parliament 15th December 2014. This removes payment of the WFP within 6 countries and Gibraltar.

Reference your FoI reply 360 of  26th February 2016,
Attention – P.Lapraik, Work, Welfare and Wellbeing later in Life Division within the DWP.

Dear Mr Lapraik
You have experience of producing official booklets for ‘At-risk groups including older people with pre-existing medical conditions as well as those whose health, housing or economic circumstances put them at greater risk of harm from cold weather.’  I am aware the booklets were drawn up to care for older people in England, however, it seems to me the advice should apply to all British Citizens in receipt of a UK State Pension.
The two booklets pay attention to the negative health effects starting at relatively moderate outdoor mean temperatures of 4-8°C; and refer to the geographical distribution of cold weather as not being uniform. Low temperatures tend to be more severe in rural and exposed areas, occurring earlier in some parts of the country than others.
You were involved in the development and application of a policy, which declared an average winter temperature for the whole of France of 7.0°C, when you knew 19 of 22 Regions of France were below that figure, and 15 of them were below that of SW England.  The outcome has been damaging for numerous British pensioners in other States of the EU as you will discover as you read towards the end of this document after I have commented on the reply to question four of my FoI request.

In this mail I seek an internal review of my FoI 360 request, for I find the reply which I have received unsatisfactory.
I respond  in turn to each of the answers to my questions.
Reply Question One.   1. To state what was the objective in drawing up this S.I.?
Your reply refers me to the S.I. note & memorandum  The memorandum states
Ministers are concerned about paying Winter Fuel Payments in EEA countries where the weather is generally warmer than the UK.  Therefore, DWP has considered ways of ensuring that the payment is better targeted on people who live in countries with a cold  climate.”

The following answer (TWO) implies that this is incorrect.  For that reply states -  Other methods of making off-setting savings in public expenditure were considered”.

Although the memorandum states that the objective reason is otherwise, this is an obfuscation, for the true objective reason is a cost saving measure.
Do you agree or not that the objective reason is a cost saving measure?
Briefing from the DWP led both the Prime Minister’s Office, and that of the then Chairman of the Conservative Party to write to many complainants, that the DWP was: “broadly offsetting the cost of a recent European court judgement which stated that the Government must pay Winter Fuel Payment to EEA citizens who have a "genuine and sufficient link" with the UK”.   This is clearly saying that the measure was intended as a cost-saving proposal. Does this not indicate that the DWP has the intention to circumnavigate around  the EU regulations on the protection of the aged to achieve this objective? The memorandum in so many words admits that this was the intention.

Reply Question Two  2. Which other methods of achieving that objective were considered?
Your reply clearly says that my question is not going to be answered.   I wish to explore this because it is central to discovering the reasons for the S.I.   I think we can agree, can we not, that the objective reason is a cost saving measure.  On that basis what other measures were considered to cut the costs?  

Did the DWP research the possibility of including the WFP as an integral part of the State Pension, perhaps as a higher winter supplement to it?
Did the DWP consider dropping the WFP altogether?
Did the DWP consider  means testing of the WFP?
? others?

Reply Question Three 3. Why was the temperature criterion selected to achieve this objective?
The question is asking ---  What led the DWP to latch onto the idea of a temperature test? i..e. To cut the costs!
Again the answer throws one back to the Explanatory memorandum.  That reveals no further information on this question.
It says -DWP is aware there will be people who live in cold regions of “warm” countries who will not be eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment.  
The welfare of the individual citizen was considered of lesser worth than the convenience of the administration.  An attempt has been made to search for loop holes or weaknesses in EU law to save costs, with disregard for the impact on  numerous British Citizens. Do you not agree?

Reply question Four . 4. What investigation or investigations were carried out to consider the potential impact of this temperature criterion on the poorer British Citizen
State pensioners resident in the seven EU States and dependency affected by this S.I.?
What investigations were carried out etc – i.e. impact assessments?  You admit that none at all were carried out, do you not?
The aforesaid Explanatory note states
“A full impact assessment has not been produced for these Regulations as they have no impact on the private sector or civil society organisations.”
You send to me in answer the Equality Analysis relating to restricting eligibility to Winter Fuel Payments in the EEA – Which is indeed not a full impact statement for the reply itself admits that the DWP has not considered the socio-economic implications of the S.I. 
That Equality Act States –"An authority must….have due regard to the desirability of exercising them in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage."
Whatever the statement in the reply “Please note that socio-economic status is not a protected characteristic under section 149 (public sector equality duty) of the Equality Act 2010” is meant to convey…..
I cannot read anything in the Equality Act 2010 which justifies the exclusion of appropriate consideration of the impact of this S.I. on the weak, the aged, and the disabled, citizens.  It specifically states that AGE is a protected characteristic.

[Postscript to this on 20/03/2016 – Mr. Lapraik’s report on the relation between the Equality Act 2010   states Age Impact  There is no evidence to suggest that there will be any impact on people on the  basis of their age. The change does not affect the age at which a customer will be entitled to a WFP.]
One might argue that the SI selectively targets certain groups of  aged citizens and that as such it is contrary to the spirit of the Equality Act.]
I give below some extracts of information which I hold of such impacts which demonstrate unequivocally the deleterious impacts on some citizens resident in other States of the EU. They demonstrate only too well the manner in which the DWP fails to obey the requirements of the Equality Act with regard to welfare of the elderly.
 I ask for you to fully consider the matters I draw to your attention and consider the consequences of continuing the actions which the DWP have established.
Is it not the responsibility of your division within the DWP to recommend measures for the well being of the aged British Citizens?

1  --- 10/02/2012 20:03
Good Evening Mr Cave.
Just as I was yesterday, I am typing Emails sitting up in bed. I am  fully clothed in three jumpers, two pairs of trousers and a track suit. 
My dear husband, similarly dressed, is tucked up beside me.  He is eighty-six, and suffers from epilepsy and  a certain amount of mental confusion.
Outside the temperature is minus 2 degrees, and is expected to fall to minus 10 degrees tonight - a big improvement on the
minus 14 degrees we had last night.
We retired to bed at three o'clock this afternoon, when my husband found that crouching over our log-burner became too much strain
on his back.  The only room we can afford to keep warm is our bedroom, where we can use our electric blanket
plus a paraffin stove for warmth.  Our house has an antiquated central heating system which has broken down - and we can't afford to repair
or replace it. 
My husband served his country during the war, and worked all his life thereafter without claiming a day's unemployment benefit.
He finally retired at seventy.

2 -- 15/02/2012
Like your correspondent, we moved to France sixteen years ago, the year before the Winter Fuel Payment was instituted.  Since then, we have met many British expats, most of whom arrived in France more than six years after ourselves, and they, of course, do receive this allowance.  Whilst we do not, of course, hold this against them; good luck to them - I'm glad they get it. But it is this blatant discrimination by the British government, resulting in the older, more frail (and in many cases, poorer) pensioners being the ones to whom this vital heating allowance is denied and this really upsets me.  It beggars belief and I am absolutely astonished that those in successive governments have been unable to see this, not to mention their breaking of European rules (as outlined by the British Expats Association, Spain, and yourself, on many occasions). 
Like most of our friends, when we arrived in France aged 60, we were in good health.  However, as we all know, as the years go on, many of us are beset by various illnesses and the frailty of old age.  I have had several operations and many investigations in hospital for various internal and ophthalmic problems.  My husband had a hip replacement three years ago and two other operations since then.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago, for which he is being treated with chemotherapy.  He has suffered horrific and debilitating side effects and I am, of course, at the age of 77, his only carer.  We have no family, either here or in the U.K.  There have been improvements as well as setbacks in the progress of his illness and further chemotherapy is planned.
As you can imagine, this past year has been extremely hard on both of us and it is only with the support of the excellent French health professionals as well as the kindness of our friends and neighbours (both French and British) that we have managed to cope.   We live on a joint pension income of 12,000 pounds sterling per annum and have to draw on our very modest savings to supplement this.   Because of our low income, we downsized seven years ago to a tiny, one-bedroomed house which my husband converted from a carpenter's workshop but his illness and treatment cause him to feel the cold in the extreme and, in spite of the size of our house, I dread to think what our heating bill will be this Winter.  It is so dreadfully unfair that we and others in our situation are not allowed to receive the Winter Fuel Payment  from the British government when our compatriots do!  And, of course, there is nothing we can do about it as, having lived in France for more than fifteen years, we are now disenfranchised as well!
S.E R.
3 -- December 30th 2014
I’m a 74 year old British Pensioner, I have health problems - high blood pressure placing me in a high risk category of heart attacks and strokes, requiring beta blocker medication for the rest of my life; and I’m a thrombophilia sufferer requiring anti-coagulants for the rest of life, which thin my blood and make me more vulnerable to extreme temperatures.  So, it doesn’t matter whether I live in Blarney, Bristol, Bologna, Bordeaux or Barcelona, cold weather will always affect me.  OK if I live in Bologna, Bordeaux or Barcelona, I may get more daytime sunshine, particularly in the winter, but night-time in those countries will be much colder than Blarney or Bristol!  A British Pensioner is still a British Pensioner wherever he/she chooses to live within the EU!
4 -- December 31st 2014
Thanks for this Brian - just read my EDF meter which tells me that my bill for 2 months will be just under 400€ and it will get even colder over the next 2 months. I'm 70 and I really do feel the cold more and more with each passing year.
5 -- January 5th 2015  Copied from The Anglo-Info forum site for Normandy.
I came here in 2005, rushing out of another European country and settled into rural life with difficulty. At that stage I had health and a car. I had a major car accident in 2010 followed by cancer  in 2011 (from which I am supposed to be in "remission", it might be stabilising) and am now alone trying to deal with the ridiculous situation that I am far from anywhere and have nothing to eat and also have difficulties eating and can't stand being on my own . This has nothing to do with the local people who on the whole are kind to me, although not really available to deal with this, but everything to do with me. I see no solutions to this situation at all.  I am known to the local social services and the local community. The supermarkets are 11 to 18 km away, there is no-one to take me to it and in any case I have been known to walk into and out of the local supermarket without buying anything. Also home deliveries are just about possible but not for the quantities I need. There is one bus a day from a two km walk to the village to one of the (moribund) towns.  I am at least three hours' drive from anyone who posts on this site   (south of Rouen).  I tried to buy some frozen things with the cleaning lady who gone away for more than a week now. It is insufficient and I am going hungry.
My house is cold.  I am 64, taking the cancer drug femara (not chemotherapy) and going mad here. My doctor is both on strike and doesn't want to know particularly. Also being "big" going down to a mere 91 kilos recently I have literally nothing much to wear apart from outsize t shirts which are embarrassingly like scarecrow stuff on me.   I see no solutions.

6 -- January 8th 2014
We live in Burgundy where winter temperatures vary between minus 10c to minus 20c.
We have already had minus 10c and the coldest part of our winter is yet to come. My husband is 81, a diabetic and had a stroke 6 years’ ago. I am 71 and in good health but I feel the cold badly. It will be a real hardship for us not to have the winter fuel allowance.
 We are also puzzled by the fact that the UK has included warmer countries outside France in the decision to stop our allowance. These countries are not a part of
mainland France and  mainland France is not affected by their weather patterns. We therefore don’t understand the logic involved in this current decision at all.
It’s tantamount to saying that, if India were still a part of the UK, that no one in the UK would be eligible either!  
29 March 2015
7 --
My husband, ******, is 77 years old, he has mobility problems, sciatica, asthma, insulin dependent diabetes, heart problems, and has been fighting cancer for 3 years. I have been his 24/7 carer for the last few years and still am, how dare the government want to strip us of everything we are entitled to?
I thank you for your support and help on behalf of both of us
with kindest regards  L.D.
8 -  April 19th 2015 Two histories passed on by a Charity supporter.
This gentleman is aged 90.  He joined  the RN as Boy Seaman aged 16. Served in an MTB .Sunk by enemy on D Day.He suffered severe wounds to his stomach. Was nursed back to health at the RN Hospital Haslar.
When discharged  became schoolmaster, founding a  Language School in the Belgian Congo & then teaching in Portsmouth. On retirement in the 1980's he moved to France.  Divorced . Three female children. One dead, others live ouside UK. Unable to provide funds.
He moved around  the Dordogne & South Charente  taking on house sitting jobs or living in rented accomodation. His capital was diminished by the banking crisis. He became unable to pay his rent. He was helped by Mrs Susan Patrick until recently, the SSAFA Treasurer for France . A tower of strength who persuaded his former Masonic Lodge to pay towards his debts and liaised with the French  "Service Publique",who  placed him  "sous tutelle" .Therefore his possessions have been sold & he is now confined in the Maison de Retraite in Aigre,Charente.His pension is used to pay for his upkeep. I think,but can not confirm  that he has been allowed to keep the Winter Fuel Payment. Which he will now lose. He does, of course, receive the annual £10 pensioners Xmas bonus from a grateful British Government!!

9 -- PETER.
Aged 70 plus.  Worked for the Sussex CC restoring artwork in Brighton Pavillion. Very small pension on early retirement. Lives here in  Creyssac,the village where my wife & I have lived for 20 years. The local GP asked us to keep an eye on him some 7 years ago. We found him living in total squalor . He was very ill.  The Pompiers  took him to Perigueux Hospital. He was in Intensive Care for a week. He was not registered with the Health Authority( CPAM ) so the Bordeaux Consulate were informed . They asked us to help. (There is no longer an Honorary Consul in the North Dordogne)   We contacted Newcastle to obtain  the the UK state Pension for him.They acted promptly,replying to the request for help by telephone midday on a Sunday. (Bravo)
He  lives  in a derelict house with no running water surviving on the two pensions & for the last 2 years the Winter Fuel Payments that he will now lose.

10 -- April 20th 2015  From a carer who visits an elderly couple.
I carry a fleece in my car which I put on when I arrive at my client’s house because it is so cold inside! I pat myself on the back each year when she makes it through  to May again. I buy thermal vests, fleecy dressing gowns & socks for them for Christmas & birthdays. Her mobility is so bad & the house so old that I insist they  have the heating on 10 months of the year, day & night (I know they turn it off when I leave & go to bed instead).

11 --  May 7th 2015.  (From Telegraph article by Elizabeth Roberts) Michael Boyd-Carpenter, 83, a retired stockbroker who lives in the Dordogne, said that while he has enough money to live on he knows of elderly Britons in his area struggling to make ends meet.
One, a man in his 90s, was wounded in action during the Second World War. His capital was diminished by the banking crisis and, unable to pay his rent, he now lives in a state care home.
 “I think he has been allowed to keep the winter fuel payment [so far] but will now lose it,” said Mr Boyd-Carpenter. “He’s a good example of someone who will suffer. So much for caring for our war heroes.”
Another, a man in his 70s, subsists on a small private pension plus the UK state pension.
“He lives in a derelict house with no running water surviving on the two pensions and, for the last two years, the winter fuel payments that he will now lose,” said Mr Boyd-Carpenter.
12 --  August 2nd 2015  from R.M (France)
I live in L Q a small commune in Dept 22 - The winters here can be bitterly cold and we do have heavy rain, snow and ice - in the beginning of December and later on in the New Year.  It is most uncomfortable and I am housebound. We have no facilities eg shops, restaurants, mobile shops here in the commune.  I do not drive and have to organise  Transport on Demand - trips to ……. for shopping (have a friend who lives there) etc. I have to give two days notice but I try and plan ahead and go shopping monthly.  Here are some pictures of the commune.
I have four hot water bottles on standby!!
13 ---  21/08/2015 – from S.F.
My mother-in-law is 86 and lives here and she uses the WFA for her logs – it covers about half her winter fuel costs and she’s in S. Portugal where we can have frosts for 3 months of the year!

14 – 25/08/2015  D. 
After appalling surgery in 1977 I was left with a condition which left me able to do only light work  (from which I had to retire even earlier than anticipated) & which exempted me from  all prescription payments.  I lived in the West Country for 25 years during which time I experienced that number of winters (including being snowed-in for 2 weeks) and  I had to have fires, boilers, heating appliances in use from October round to the following May.  I seem to remember that it was the West Country that was sighted as the “levelling post” in terms of temperatures which deemed the cessation of w.f.payments to many  and which is why I mention the fact.  When I was 60 I moved to Sthn Spain  for my health which, I have to say, has improved.  However,  I still cannot go without indoor warmth in the winter months here, and living in the foothills of the mountains (but only 220 mtrs above sea level yet I was higher than that in the West Country!) still requires me to have fires during our winter months for my comfort and health.  It should also be recognised that one´s body becomes acclimatized to the heat of summer and consequently feels the cold even more so.  I buy my winter fuel supply of burning logs during the summer when they are cheaper, but one lorry load still costs me €350 so the absence of my winter fuel allowance is a severe loss to my well-being.
15 –  30/08/2015 SM
Writing to the MP.   I hope I can rely on your Support, as you know my circumstances here are not ideal renting a poorly maintained property, costing me a fortune in heating bills, €2,700 € in diesel heating fuel from March 2014,and My electricity bill has recently been  increased to €130 pm, I've had to have electric heating on in evenings these last few days, due to one of my health conditions, autoimmune Thyroiditis, now turned to Hashimoto's,  of which feeling cold is one symptom. I am now just 68 this month, poor health and dreading the winter here, but powerless to do anything, except write to you in hopes of saving my WFA, and say every little helps! 

16 – 5/09/2015 FM
We are pensioners on a very low State pension of around £800 a month which is about half the suggested amount required to live a comfortable life here in France.We need to heat our property from September through to May. The average temperatures here in the Charente are 4.5 degrees during the cold winter months, which are below that of the south of England. Our house temperature does not go above 20 degrees during the winter and we have struggled to keep warm in previous winters.

17  -  15/09/2015 Copied from a comment on the AngloInfo forum
We can't vote after 15 years so we don't count.  Shame on them I say.   As for me, well my husband is suffering from cancer and last winter we needed the heating on 24/7 because he'd lost so much weight he couldn't keep warm.  That extra bit of cash helped a great deal.  I know it's not a lot, and having it withdrawn won't stop me burning the extra oil this winter to keep him warm..  But as folks who are below the tax threshold it did make a difference. 

18 -11 December 2015 I am appalled to learn that Ian Duncan Smith has stopped the Winter Fuel Payment for this  year. 2015- I only got last year’s on 9th March this year which left us in dire straits.
I am sitting in the house in a heavy coat typing this as we have NO HEATING and the house is freezing.
I cannot remember the exact degrees government say you need to sit in and bedroom a couple of degrees lower but I found in the UK with housing benefit that you could spend whatever you liked on TV and Internet but to keep warm or eat - NO WAY.
I am a British citizen and 71yrs old- chronically ill - I get bronchitis which turns to pneumonia- hopefully this year it won't as I have been given a pneumonia vaccine for the first time.
My son is only 36yrs old and chronically ill due to being assaulted in the UK and as he suffers with diabetes and epilepsy he feel the cold terribly and is prone to bronchitis.
It is ridiculous to say we don't need heat- it is freezing here at the moment and has been like this for a week- rain and dampness to top it all.
As the European Court found in our favour surely this is going against EU rules  

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