Winter Fuel Payment
Testing Temperatures 2
Government's Cold Weather Plans
NHS England, on behalf of the UK Government, publishes two booklets, every year. Those originally published on 15 October 2015 for 2016, were re-issued for 2017, on 19 October 2016, and thereby remain in place for the whole of this year.
Two senior officials from the DWP served on the Reference Group behind this annual production, over a period of five years, alongside their colleagues from six other Government Departments, as well as the NHS and the Met Office. Via freedom of Information request we asked, if those two officials ever liaised with their colleagues who worked on the removal of the WFP from 164,000 UK Pensioners living across Europe?
On 13 December 2016, the DWP responded: ‘The Department for Work and Pensions was not a member of the Steering Group; it was represented on the wider reference group. Those involved with the reference group had no input to the decision to stop making winter fuel payments to a number of EEA countries including France. Therefore, no documentation exists.’
Whoops! We got it wrong. Three of the annual publications of the Cold Weather Plan for England, 2013 (for the year 2014), 2014 (for the year 2015), 2015, (for the year 2016, which has now been re-introduced for 2017), all list a Mr Paul Lapraik of the DWP as being a member of the ‘wider reference group’, not as we thought, the ‘Steering Committee’.
It is therefore odd to read in the Explanatory Memorandum published alongside the Statutory Instrument 2014 No.3270 that: ‘Paul Lapraik at DWP can answer any queries regarding this instrument (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).’
We mean no disrespect to Mr Lapraik, who is listed as a Senior Executive Officer in the DWP. However, if he has spent 4 years on the Reference Group, he must have had some input, and a lot of knowledge of the advice presented in the Cold Weather Plan. And, if at the same time, he was listed on the face of an Explanatory Memorandum as the executive to answer queries on a change of regulations which deprived UK pensioners of their legal entitlement to an old-age risk benefit, it is very hard to comprehend how he could have been: ‘involved with the reference group’ and at the same time have: ‘had no input to the decision to stop making winter fuel payments’.
Of course the DWP will rush to tell us these documents only apply to British Pensioners living in England, and that they were prepared to provide advice for health and welfare professionals.
We say, low temperatures affect British Pensioners all over Europe, whether they live in Bristol, Basel, Bologna, Bordeaux, Barcelona or Braga, particularly those with underlying health issues. What the two Government publications do show is how vulnerable individuals can become when winter temperatures fall below a certain level.
The first thing to note from the publications
is the detail below.
These recommendations apply to daytime
temperatures in winter.
It follows, if this is considered the minimum standard for indoor temperatures, then the outdoor temperature must be at least 18°C to be considered 'warm' or 'hot' enough to protect elderly vulnerable people from harm.
The second important element to come from these two booklets is the advice concerning the levels of risk associated with low temperatures on the health of elderly individuals.
There can be no doubt that this is well illustrated by the chart reproduced above. It shows: there is an ‘increased risk of death’ whenever average winter temperatures fall below 8°C! The Government booklets go on to say: ‘these findings indicate that negative health effects start at relatively moderate outdoor temperatures of around 4-8°C. Although the risk of death increases as temperatures fall, the higher frequency of days at moderate temperatures mean that the greatest health burden in absolute numbers of deaths, occurs at these moderate temperatures.’
Even though this information is taken from booklets published for the protection of the elderly in England, the issues they raise are only too obvious when it comes to ensuring that all elderly UK Pensioners are well protected from winter temperatures as they plummet to levels requiring homes to be heated. And, for the record there are 490,869 UK Pensioners living now in EU/EEA Countries (according to the August 2016 quarterly release to be found on the Stat-Xplore website, operated by the ONS for the DWP).
It beggars belief therefore to understand why Iain Duncan Smith pushed the DWP to determine that average winter temperatures above 5.6°C (vis S W England) MUST be ‘HOT’!
The DWP identified three countries in particular - France at 7.0°C; Greece at 7.1°C, and Spain at 7.3°C which they consider to be ‘hot’ countries in winter, placing them below the temperature threshold at which there is an 'increased risk of death'. IDS and the DWP removed a legal entitlement to an 'old-age risk benefit' for all British Pensioners living in those particular countries, along with the others they declared 'hot'.
By any normal standards, an average daily temperature throughout the winter of 7.0°C is cold. As the chart above shows, anything below 8.0°C increases the risk of death for elderly people. So this UK Government, which, according to David Cameron and Theresa May was supposed to be so caring for the ageing population, treating them with dignity and security, actually doesn’t give a toss about those who have sought some extra days of sun in their twilight years.
These UK Citizens have done nothing wrong; they haven’t broken the law; they haven’t fiddled the system; they haven’t committed any criminal act such as benefit fraud; they have simply exercised their legal right to free movement and found a home in another EU country. BUT, they are still UK Citizens, they are still UK Pensioners, and many of them still pay their taxes in Britain.
Why did Iain Duncan Smith set out to punish them??
How did France become HOT? Click Here