Winter Fuel Payment Row Hots Up for British Expat Pensioners

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British state pension benefits claimed by expats are an ‘anomaly’ of the welfare system and a debate should open about whether they are curtailed as part of the austerity program.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was speaking in general about state pension benefits, but gave a clear indication that many policymakers were looking to axe these benefits to claw back £10 billion of savings.

For expats, the state pension is safe – at least for the time being – but the age-related Winter Fuel Payment of £200 – £300 looks certain to go as soon as Duncan Smith can cancel the payment.

He agrees pensioners need the government to safeguard their money as few have the option of working to increase their income.

However, he takes a hard line with wealthy pensioners claiming benefits out of greed rather than necessity and claims their action makes defending their case difficult.

Give the money back

His suggestion is better-off pensioners should hand the money back.

“There are lots of anomalies in the benefits system. We could go almost anywhere to some of the universal nature of some of these benefits,” he said.

The government has recently lost a court case brought by a British pensioner living in Switzerland that demands the winter heating allowance is paid to retirees living in Europe and some other countries, regardless of whether they need it.

“I’d be inclined to send it back. If you honestly think it’s going to pay for your holiday then give it back, because it’s not what it was meant to do,” he said.

Duncan Smith has promised to introduce a weather ruling that stops pensions in warmer countries from claiming the allowance if temperatures do not drop below a certain level.

He also divulged the main reason why he had not acted on cutting benefits like free bus passes and free TV licences was an election pledge made by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Cameron’s assurance

“The reality is this: the Prime Minister absolutely pledged quite categorically at the last election that he would not be interfering with those benefits, which reassured a lot of pensioners and I think if the Prime Minister gives his word on something like that I’m happy to accept it,” he said.

“My view is pensioners don’t have the one option that people of working age have. They can’t really increase their income, because they are no longer able to work.

“Work is transformative. It gives you a greater chance of a greater income. You can affect your life while you’re of working age, so you have scope and opportunity. Pensioners do not.

“We do need to have a little bit more protection and sensibility around pensioners. They are remarkable. They gave so much. We need to make sure we do our best by them.”

4 thoughts on “Winter Fuel Payment Row Hots Up for British Expat Pensioners”

  1. “My view is pensioners don’t have the one option that people of working age have. They can’t really increase their income, because they are no longer able to work.” An ironic comment from IDS and very true, so how does he think those 4% of UK state pensioners who are victims of the frozen state pension injustice are supposed to live on a decreasing pension? Victims of this theft just because of where they live, ALL have paid for their state pension with their own money, ALL are entitled to annual increases where one lives in retirement is irrelevant. Another qoute from IDS..
    “We do need to have a little bit more protection and sensibility around pensioners. They are remarkable. They gave so much. We need to make sure we do our best by them.”
    What a hypocrite, along with David Cameron who promised to end this discrimination if he won the election. Lies to get votes? Surely not!

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  2. “For ex-pats the pension is safe… ” Not true!!

    Not true for 4% of the total number of UK pensioners world wide it has never been safe! Each year at the time of the April uprating pensioners in the UK, EEA and select countries like USA, Israel, the Philippines and the US Virgin Islands receive the increase but those living in for example, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Thailand and, would you believe the British Virgin Islands are denied. Your UK State Retirement Pension is frozen at the rate at which it becomes first payable in the host country. Thus a centenarian who retired in the UK on full pension but went to live with her only surviving relative in Australia still only gets the princely sum of £6. 4s. 0d (£6.20) a week.
    There is no justification, be it legal, moral, financial or administrative, for this discrimination by successive governments
    While IDS believes there may be a case for not making the Winter Fuel Allowance automatically payable to those who have retired to countries where the increase in pension is payable he and his Pensions Minister should be resolving this frozen pensions issue – as they said they would when in opposition.
    What is, perhaps, more difficult to fathom is how a European Court can uphold a claim for and additional and in many case unnecessary allowance like WFA yet deny the frozen pensioner their rights under the mandatory “contract” agreed with the government.

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  3. Iain Duncan Smith also divulged the main reason why he had not acted on cutting benefits like free bus passes and free TV licences was an election pledge made by Prime Minister David Cameron.
    So what about the pledge that Steve Webb made about unfreezing this minority of pensioners Then. Ok for some and not for others and even David Cameron said he wanred fairness for pensioners and he did not say except those that are frozen did he ?

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  4. Since when has the WFA been a state pension benefit when it kicks in 5 years before the current retirement age and in years to come (if it remains) it will be 7-10 years before the official retirement age.

    I agree that the whole benefit system needs overhauling but cherry picking for political reasons is divisive and not the way to do it. If IDS was willing to adjust the state pension to be liveable rather than retaining pension credits, free bus passes, TV licences, passports and WFA, that could save a fortune in admin costs and claw back tax from the increased state pension amount of tax paying pensioners.

    I had hoped IDS would address all these anomalies from his previous rhetoric but when that ECJ judgement went against the government, rather than overhaul the benefits system, he acts like a spoilt child and attacks a small minority of ex-pats that in reality cost the country little.

    Grow up IDS and put your tantrum aside and look at the whole welfare system in a rationale manner.

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