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Conservatives promise to means-test for winter fuel payments to fund social care

PUBLISHED: 08:03 18 May 2017 | UPDATED: 13:15 18 May 2017

Theresa May's Conservatives are pledging to means-test older people for winter fuel allowance. Picture: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Theresa May's Conservatives are pledging to means-test older people for winter fuel allowance. Picture: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

The Conservative Party will propose scrapping winter fuel payments for all but the poorest pensioners.

The money saved by cutting the benefit will fund a social care overhaul.

If the Tories are returned to government they will means test the controversial payment which has up until now gone to all pensioners regardless of wealth.

Details of the plans will be included in the Conservative manifesto. Other key proposals on social care will include:

• Putting the home into the means-test for care meaning people’s assets are treated equally across residential and domiciliary care

• A capital floor of £100,000, below which assets will be protected from social care costs. This is four times the current level of £23,250

• Promising no-one has to sell their home within their lifetime, or the lifetime of their surviving partner to pay for care costs

In the foreword to the manifesto Theresa May also addresses Brexit claiming the coming years must “bring us together as a united country”.

She says: “Brexit will define us: our place in the world, our economic security and our future prosperity.

“People are rightly sceptical of politicians who claim to have easy answers to deeply complex problems. It is the responsibility of leaders to be straight with people about the challenges ahead and the hard work required to overcome them.

“Above all, it will require a unity of purpose stretching across this precious union of nations, from north to south and east to west. For as we embark on the momentous journey ahead of us over the next few years, our shared values, interests and ambitions can – and must – bring us together as a united country.”

The policy will be seen as another lurch towards centrist Labour voters unhappy about the direction of their party under Jeremy Corbyn.

Details of how the means testing will work and any financial cut-off point is not yet clear.

The benefit was introduced in 1997 to tackle fuel poverty among the elderly. Currently the payment varies from £100 to £300 and more than 12 million people are eligible.

Dianne Fernee, organiser of Wymondham’s well-known Pabulum Café, which supports those affected by dementia, said scrapping the allowance was “a dig at a vulnerable group” of society.

She said: “Many older people have got huge care bills to think about and haven’t got extra money like people often think they do.

“There will be people who fall through the cracks. Some I speak to at the café already say they don’t claim their allowance because they don’t feel like they should. If they have to apply, there will be lots that don’t feel entitled to do so.

“Instead, you’ll get people worrying – heating only one room or turning it off entirely, which, as everyone knows, is a huge worry for their health.”

In 2015, when then prime minister David Cameron pledged to keep the payments, Age UK Norfolk agreed with Mrs Fernee, saying at the time that means-testing the benefit risked people falling through the net.

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