Pay Winter Fuel Allowance early to prevent deaths, says Welsh MP

By staff writers
December 1, 2013

Hywel Williams, MP for Arfon in Wales, has repeated calls for the Winter Fuel Allowance to be paid in the summer to off-grid claimants when fuel is cheaper to help people get more value for their money as ONS figures show a 29 per cent rise in excess winter deaths since last year.

The Winter Fuel Allowance is paid to people born on or before 5 January 1952 to help them with paying their heating bills.

Plaid Cymru (the Party of Wales) has an early payment policy which would apply to homes not connected to the mains grid and whose principal source of fuel is home fuel oil, propane gas or liquid petroleum gas.

Mr Williams, a Plaid Cymru MP who has long campaigned on this issue, said that many off-grid households already face isolation and harsher conditions during winter months and that bringing forward payments would offer them a better chance of dealing with soaring energy costs.

Mr Williams declared: “The recent distressing figures reflect a broken energy market and an intensifying cost of living crisis that is claiming lives.

“It has been a longstanding Plaid Cymru policy to issue early payments of the Winter Fuel Allowance to off-grid claimants to help them stay on top of soaring energy bills.

“Off-grid fuel tends to be cheaper in summer so it is a matter of common sense that early payments would offer people better value for their money."

Mike Weir MP (Scottish National Party) introduced the Winter Fuel Allowance Payments (Off-Grid Claimants) Bill in Parliament on 27 November 2013, calling for this change. Government MPs talked it out, but the political pressure on the coalition administration continues.

“There is a stark rise in excess winter deaths, which shows the urgency with which this issue must be addressed," said Mr Williams. "In Wales, the figure has risen from 1,260 to 1,900 in the last year – a staggering jump of 51 per cent which is far higher than the UK-wide rise of 29 per cent.

“However, Plaid Cymru recognises that all households are struggling with energy prices and that is why we want to establish Energy Wales – a not-for-distributable-profit company that would reinvest in services and deliver fairer prices for customers. We also want a fuel duty stabiliser to help motorists and stop rocketing prices at the pump, as well as a windfall tax on energy companies to be invested in energy saving and sustainable energy projects."

[Ekk/3]

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