UK expat pensioner winter fuel payments soar in 2012

Published:  26 Dec at 6 PM
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Record numbers of UK expat pensioners living in sunny climes have claimed the annual winter fuel payment intended to help with the cost of gas and electricity in the cold winter months.

According to figures released by the UK Pensions Minister, around 74,000 British pensioners living overseas claimed the winter fuel grant of £200 in 2011/2012. The number increased by 1,000 over 2010/2011’s figures, but the government is fearing a sharp further increase next year due to a recent European Court of Justice ruling.

Prior to the ruling, only British retirees resident in European Union member countries who had previously made a claim in the UK were entitled to the benefit, with those living elsewhere overseas and those whose retirement date occurred after their migration not able to claim. The new ruling includes pensioners with genuine UK links living in EEA countries, an increase of around 440,000 eligible expat Brits already in receipt of state pensions.

Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan-Smith is considering a temperature test to prove eligibility, based on the fact that many retirees have chosen to live in warmer countries. The scheme may also apply to elderly people in warmer UK regions such as the southwest, although UK pensioners in colder European countries may still receive the payment.

In spite of David Cameron’s pre-election promise of not cutting winter fuel payments during the life of the present parliament, Deputy PM Nick Clegg is questioning the sense of making winter fuel payments to the rich, and Duncan-Smith has frequently called for universal pensioner benefits to end, regardless of individual circumstances.
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Anne Thorlin Batty wrote 10 years ago:

We live on the south coast of Spain in the Granada province and yes, I agree,it is very warm in the summer however, in the winter, the temperature can drop as low as 3 and the winds blow bitterly down from the snow covered Sierras which are just 45 minutes north of us. Our house, like all Spanish houses, has cold marble floors and just a wood burning stove in one room to keep us warm. The cheapest price that we can find for wood is 5 euros for 20 kilos which would last us for two lighting the stove first thing in the morning and leaving it to burn out about 4 in the afternoon and sitting under a blanket during the early evening. My government pension is less than half of the UK full pension as I did not pay a full stamp for many years and I cannot qualify for any benefits whatsoever as I do not live in the UK: My husband will not receive his pension for another eighteen months. In order to live here we 'let' out the downstairs part of our house along with the pool and gardens all year around and live and sleep in one room and a bathroom at the top of the house on the roof which has access to the lane at the back of the house. We cannot sell the house, there are thousands of houses for sale here in the south of Spain and if we were to leave it and go back to the UK we would become another burden on the taxpayer like so many others. This is not a complaint, we have chosen to live this way but, Surely we should be entitled to receive the winter fuel allowance along with those pensioners who are so much better off and a whole lot warmer in the winter than us.

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