Winter Fuel Payment scheme launched

Energy meterAn initiative to keep vulnerable older people safe and warm this winter has been launched.

Saga and the Community Foundation Network (CFN) have teamed up for this year's Surviving Winter campaign, which ran for the first time last year.

The campaign enables pensioners to "recycle" some or all of their Winter Fuel Payment to help those struggling with their energy bills in the oncoming winter weather.

Actor Steven Fry tweeted last month that the campaign was "A great idea, much needed!".

The campaign began when Saga customers asked if there was a way to use their Winter Fuel Payments to help others less fortunate than themselves.

Donations will be used to fund Meals on Wheels, help people pay their energy bills and better insulate their homes.

Last year, Surviving Winter raised £2.5 million and helped more than 20,000 people. The cold weather can also cause health issues such as flu, bronchitis and circulation problems.

For older people cold weather can be particularly life-threatening, and more than 25,000 UK pensioners die due to the cold each winter, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Dr Ros Altmann, director-general of Saga said: "We are particularly concerned about the statistics showing that the UK has a higher winter death rate among older people than other European countries, even those with much colder winters than ours. We are aware that the UK has a much less energy efficient housing stock than most of Europe, meaning older people need all the help they can get to keep their homes warm.

"Payments are an essential lifeline for many pensioners during the cold winter months and we strongly oppose any move to means-test this benefit as those who need the money may not receive it. This initiative facilitates a way for those who don't feel they need their Winter Fuel Payment to donate it to someone who is struggling with the cost of heating."
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