Survey finds public support for winter fuel campaign


There is widespread public support for extending winter fuel payments to severely disabled people, according to a new survey.

The research found that 86 per cent of non-disabled people (and 90 per cent of disabled people) supported the move.

The survey of almost 900 people by the Papworth Trust also reveals that disabled people were twice as likely as non-disabled people to go without food, heating clothes and leisure opportunities last winter because of a lack of money.

And three-quarters of disabled people spent between eight and 12 hours at home during the day in winter, compared with just 21 per cent of non-disabled people.

The Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert tabled a Commons early day motion (EDM) in June calling for winter fuel payments to be extended, which has so far been signed by 42 MPs from across the political spectrum.

The policy was part of the Liberal Democrat election manifesto, but was not included in the coalition’s programme of government in May.

Steve Webb MP, then the Liberal Democrat shadow work and pensions secretary but now pensions minister in the coalition government, said before the election that such a policy would help to “break the link between disability and poverty”.

In March, a coalition of campaigning organisations said the “scandal” of fuel poverty had reached “crisis levels”, leading to debt, ill-health and winter deaths.

They called for winter fuel payments to be extended to all terminally-ill people and many disabled people under 60 on low incomes.

And last year, the government’s Fuel Poverty Advisory Group suggested that more than a million more disabled people had fallen into fuel poverty between 2004 and 2008.

In his EDM, Huppert calls for the current system of winter fuel payments to be extended to all severely disabled people, paid for by delaying age-related payments until people reach 65.

At present, the payments are given to households including someone aged 60 or over – with £250 for those over 60 and £400 for those over 80 – but the trust says making the change would save money “until at least 2014”.

Huppert said: “This survey shows that regardless of their situation, the public support the campaign to extend winter fuel payments to severely disabled people. It is vital that the government reforms the present system.”

21 September 2010