The last few UK winters have been pretty cold – particularly 2009/10 and 2010/11. In fact, the latter saw the mercury dip as low as minus 10 Celsius, which is the kind of cold that sees the condensation on the window turn to a frosty translucent glaze. And of course it follows that when it’s that cold outside, just about every radiator in the house is on at full blast, plus anything else such as the gas or electric fire. It’s a case of keeping warm, and not following the usual money saving and ecological habits of using these things sparingly.

For older people, of course, it’s absolutely essential to keep warm. Elderly people’s bodies don’t generate as much heat, so having good central heating is really important. And this is why the winter fuel allowance was introduced – to give a helping hand to older people to ensure they’re able to keep the heating on and also able to manage the cost.

The winter fuel payment was then extended to people over a certain age who live abroad in European Economic Area countries and also Switzerland. This has caused some debate in the press, since of course if you’re living abroad you may be in a place that enjoys much milder winters than the sometimes sub zero ones we have here in the UK. One proposed solution to this is a temperature test to make sure that the payments go to those who require them.

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