After a poll found that over half of British adults thought winter fuel payments should be available for anyone living in hardship, Julia Hartley-Brewer has said that she felt “uncomfortable” receiving “handouts from the state that I don’t need”.
During a conversation with Debbie McGee, who has joined forces with npower to promote their Fuel Bank service, Hartley-Brewer likened the winter fuel payments to child benefit.
“I find it quite strange that my parents, who definitely don’t need it, get winter fuel payments and free bus passes and the like,” she said.
“I was uncomfortable I got child benefit, I got it and put it into an account for my daughter but I don’t need it, I don’t want handouts from the state that I don’t need, I’d rather they went to other people.”
A poll commissioned by npower, whose Fuel Bank initiative gives an energy top-up voucher to food bank users deemed to be in crisis, found that 66% of the 2,000 adults surveyed thought the payments should be available to anyone who needed them.
Some 34% of recipients of the allowance said they don’t really need it. Others said they would like to be able to opt out of the scheme, while some admitted to using the payments to buy Christmas gifts.
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“The last thing we want is elderly people who are struggling with their finances not turning on the heating because they’re worried about the costs of it. When it’s particularly cold, they get their extra allowance to pay for their heating bills. But why not give it to everybody?” asked Ms McGee.
“This whole campaign is to make [people] think.
“Even if you’re a person who’s too young to receive the benefit, maybe just donate £3, that keeps a family warm and they can afford to cook a hot meal for a whole day. £49 keeps them going for a couple of weeks.
“A lot of these people are at crisis point because of circumstances through no fault of their own whatsoever. This helps them keep on an even keel and get themselves out of it, they’re keeping themselves warm and the children fed, and they’re able to push and get another job.
“But when they’re left in that situation where they’re cold and hungry, nobody wants to do anything when they feel like that.”
'Choose between heating or eating'
Npower provides customers who receive the allowance but don’t feel like they need it the option to donate it to the Fuel Bank initiative instead.
Charity chair Matthew Cole said: “The Fuel Bank was launched by npower in 2015 and since that time over 116,000 people have been supported.
"We've ensured that some of the most vulnerable people in our country get heat, power and hot water when they have been doing without.
"Now formally established as a charity, we want to expand beyond the places where we already operate, to ensure that more people don’t have to choose between heating or eating this winter.”