Wealthy pensioners asked to donate winter fuel payments to poor

Surviving Winter appeal, piloted in Somerset, attempts to relieve pressure on 2.5m pensioners in fuel poverty

Well-off pensioners are being asked to donate their winter fuel payments to those who are struggling to keep warm.

Every winter the government makes tax-free fuel payments to eligible people, to help towards their heating costs.

This year, pensioners aged over 80 will receive a payment of £300, while those aged under 80 will receive £200 after the government opted not to continue with a temporary increase in the payments. The payments are not means-tested, so go to all pensioners, irrespective of their wealth.

The Surviving Winter appeal is calling on those who do not need the money to donate it to a fund for those in greater need over the winter.

The "fuel-anthropy" initiative, which was previously piloted in Somerset, is being backed by groups including the Community Foundation Network and Saga, as well as famous names such as Sir Terry Wogan and Sir David Jason.

Similar schemes already exist in some areas of the country, including Cumbria's Winter Warmth Fund.

According to official figures, 5.4m households are in fuel poverty, of which almost half are aged over 60. Some estimates suggest that about 25,400 older people died in the UK last winter due to the extreme cold, and it has been suggested that fuel poverty will kill at least 2,700 people in the coming months.

Money raised by the scheme will support local charities and community organisations, not just those helping pensioners, and donations will be accepted from all age groups.

Saga's director-general, Dr Ros Altmann, said: "Some of our customers last year wrote to us to say they would like their winter fuel payments to help others less fortunate than themselves.

"With rising fuel costs and the government's decision to cut the winter fuel payments this year, vulnerable older people are suffering a double whammy, so Saga is fully behind this new 'venture, helping channel donations into the right hands."

Sir Terry Wogan said: "This is an excellent way for local people to help some of the most vulnerable older people in their area.

"I'll certainly pass my payment on, and encourage everybody who can to contribute towards it."

While actor Sir David Jason said: "I wanted to pledge my payment to the Surviving Winter Appeal.

"It would be great to think that all those people who are in a position to forego part or all of their own winter fuel payment could join this great scheme and spread a little warmth."

People wishing to make a donation can go to the Saga website or contact their local community foundation.

The appeal is a registered charity, so gift aid donations can be made and the appeal will receive tax relief.


Hilary Osborne and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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