§ Angela Eagle
To include the full amount of the Winter Fuel Payment with the Retirement Pension of every eligible pensioner would involve using a qualifying week at the end of the previous winter. This is because Retirement Pension order books last for up to 20 weeks and are printed and issued well in advance. As a result, large numbers of people who retire after the qualifying week would not be eligible for a payment the following winter. In addition, allowing such a substantial interval to elapse would mean changes of household circumstances amongst many of those in the eligible population.
It would be possible to make a payment of £50 to every eligible pensioner at the beginning of each winter by including that amount along with their qualifying benefit. However, an exercise would then be necessary, after the qualifying week, to identify those who live alone or those who are the only eligible pensioner in their household, and make an additional £50 payment. This method would correctly deliver £50 payments to about 4.5 million pensioners but require two separate payments to about 5.5 million pensioners every winter.
The administration cost of this option is estimated at around £12.5 million in the first year and £10 million in subsequent years. The cost of the present delivery mechanism is estimated at £11 million each year. Therefore, including the payment along with the qualifying benefit is estimated to cost an additional £1.5 million in the first year, followed by a saving of around £1 million in subsequent years. The method of payment for this winter is designed to give all eligible pensioners a single, well timed payment before Christmas.
Methods of payment for future years will be kept under review.