Winter Fuel Payment to cease
for Brits abroad!
By Margaret Sheard
From winter 2015/16 the Winter Fuel Payment for people who have moved abroad to certain countries is to be stopped. What is the UK coming to? Like a lot of other people who worked all their lives, paid tax and generally supported the country, was it so wrong to try and achieve a better lifestyle when it was time to retire by moving to a warmer and more financially economical country?
On a personal note I worked for 50 years with no breaks, I did not have children so never claimed maternity benefit or leave, 2 weeks early in my working life was the only sickness benefit I ever claimed, I was never out of work so never claimed any unemployment benefit and I am sure there are many more people like me who feel they made a huge contribution to the country, taking very little back.
When retiring at the age of 65 I looked at the kind of lifestyle I could expect in the UK living on a basic State Pension and with what eventually turned out to be a very small additional pension I had taken out myself. The future did not look bright so I decided to move abroad where I would be able to make my funds stretch a little further to give me a reasonably comfortable life.
I chose Cyprus and yes the weather is warmer but house building is geared to this weather and very few properties have central heating so although the winters may not be as cold as the UK, living in an unheated house can be extremely uncomfortable and using electric for heating is very expensive. There are of course ways around this, installation of propane gas central heating or a wood-burning stove but these are both expensive to install and to run. There are times when the winter weather is very cold and there has been an occasion this year 2013/14 when the temperatures in Cyprus were actually lower than the UK!!
Another consideration when living overseas is medical issues. Medication has to be paid for and also surgery which can be very expensive. People like myself who no longer have a UK property or address do not take anything from the NHS so is it too much to expect for a little help with winter heating in our chosen country?
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has decided that we do not need the winter fuel payment in certain warmer climate countries. Does he really understand how we former tax payers manage financially, probably not. Some people who live abroad are better off financially than those who have to generally live on the basic state pension and although there are still some advantages of a place in the sun, the gradually increasing cost of living including food, commodities, electricity, petrol etc. have resulted in the £ sterling not stretching as much as it did, say 5-10 years ago.
We made our choice the British Government may think, so get on with it. It seems that the withdrawal of the winter fuel allowance will save the British tax payer £17 million a year minimum. The irony of all this is that EU migrants who choose to go to the UK to live and work are receiving benefits for their children who still live in their native country. Where is the fairness in this? Did I work all of those years to provide benefit for others and end up having my own very small benefit stopped?
I remember very many years ago hearing a report that, at that period in time, the current tax payers were providing for the pensioners, but with the changing times, unemployment etc. who would be looking after us when we reached pensionable age? It seems that this time has arrived.
There may be readers who are not aware of this decision so if you would like to read the article in the Mail Online and other news click here.
As a closing thought, it appears there are 92,983 British citizens living abroad in Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, Malta, Cyprus and Gibraltar who are to have their winter fuel payment stopped, so Mr Cameron and Mr Duncan Smith, £200 per annum does not seem like a huge amount to keep this number of people living abroad. How would the UK cope if 92,983 people decided to return and take up all of the benefits they would be entitled to even if they had to wait a certain length of time for this entitlement? This new ruling does not include Italy, why?? Ok so the north of Italy experiences cold temperatures so for this reason the British expatriate community in the whole of the country will continue to receive the winter fuel benefit, even in the south of Italy which is on the same latitudes as Greece, Spain and Portugal, this just does not make sense. If new rules are going to be applied it should be right across the board with no exceptions. See map below.
As a retired UK citizen and former tax payer I object strongly to this decision as a matter of principle.