Paying expats Winter Fuel Payment seems a little odd for a government that blows hot and cold over paying state pension cost of living increases to thousands of pensioners.
Winter fuel allowance is a payment of £100 to £300 a year to expats receiving the British state pension.
The allowance was aimed at helping pensioners on low incomes keep their homes warm in the winter, but the many are questioning whether pensioners living in warmer countries really need the payment.
Tampering with the payment in Britain would cause a stir as fuel and energy prices are continuing to rise – most major energy firms have announced price increase of up to 6% on gas and electricity in recent weeks.
Prime Minister David Cameron has also promised new laws to make sourcing cheap energy tariffs easier for households.
Expats and winter fuel allowance
A recent poll asked expats whether they felt they needed the winter fuel allowance.
Just over half (52%) agreed that they could do without the benefit.
The consensus would seem that expats would forego other benefits, like the winter fuel allowance, if they were all granted index-linked state pensions.
The payment was only protected by a European Court of Justice ruling in June 2012, after a retired expat in Switzerland claimed the British government discriminated by failing to pay the allowance to all pensioners – even if they left the UK decades ago.
Around 73,000 expats qualify for winter fuel payments at a cost of £15 million a year, because the Department of Work and Pensions would only pay the allowance to pensioners who lived in the UK until they retired.
Now, the government must pay everyone living in the European Union and a handful of other countries who receive state pension regardless of when they left the UK, which could make the bill soar to £90 million.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is planning to get round the ruling with new laws that include a temperature test – which basically means if expats live in a country where the country does not fall below a pre-set level, they cannot claim the allowance.
“We will fight these ridiculous EU rules. It is ludicrous we could have to pay more pensioners living in hot countries,” he said.
Households with someone on a state pension qualify for the £200, while those with someone over 80 get £300.