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Scrapping winter fuel cash for wealthy could fund Dilnot – Burstow

Means testing winter fuel benefits for pensioners could help to fund elderly social care, a new report suggests.

‘Delivering Dilnot: paying for elderly care’, written by the former care minister Paul Burstow MP and the think tank Centre Forum, says that limiting fuel allowance to those receiving pension credit could save £1.5bn a year – almost enough to fund the £1.7bn costs of implementing the Dilnot reforms.

Dilnot recommended that the cap on the amount individuals have to pay towards their social care should be set at £35,000 over their lifetime. The new proposals would set the cap at £60,000. People currently have to contribute if they have savings of more than £23,350 under the means-testing system – this could rise to £100,000.

Burstow said: “Social care isn’t free, but it could be a lot fairer for those who have worked hard all their lives. By concentrating the winter fuel payment on those eligible for pension credit, we can pay for a cap on care costs.”

His report notes: “The Commission’s proposals will encourage people to take responsibility for their future needs by encouraging participation in the funding of care costs. Some have countered that the system put forward by Dilnot merely protects the richest pensioners, and yet this is to misunderstand the fact that the proposals actually help those with high care costs, regardless of personal wealth.”

Several commentators have highlighted winter fuel allowance as an area that could be allocated more fairly, as there are currently around 100,000 pensioners with incomes of over £100,000 a year receiving the financial help. Many of these people say they don’t actually use it for fuel at all.

Michelle Mitchell, director of Age UK, said: “We appreciate that the country is facing difficult financial times, but we must be careful that the wider implications for older people of any potential source of funding are fully considered.

“Until the Government sets out concrete proposals it is difficult to assess what the overall impact would be on older people.”

Since losing his job in the September 2012 reshuffle, Burstow has consistently blamed the Treasury for blocking care funding reform.

But a Treasury spokesman told the Telegraph: “This is absolute rubbish. Unlike the previous Government the Treasury has been key in getting this issue back on the agenda, not least by working to deliver stable public finances that are essential if Dilnot is to be delivered.”

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