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Monday, 4 December, 2000, 13:41 GMT
Fuel bill payouts go unclaimed
Pensioner wrapping up to keep warm.
Fuel payments can prove a life-saver
Hundreds of thousands of people over the age of 60 have yet to claim their 200 winter fuel payment.

The chancellor announced in his pre-Budget statement last month that the winter fuel payment for this year would increase from 150 to 200.

Although about 11.5 million pensioners are eligible for the payments, up to 300,000 still have not made a claim.

Last December a European Court ruling meant that men were entitled to claim the winter fuel payment at the same age as women - 60.

Help the Aged: the welfare charity
Help the Aged has been monitoring payments

When the social security minister made an announcement about payments last year, many men thought a cheque would soon be in the post.

The money that many expected included backdated payments from when the benefit was introduced. And while many men have had a long wait, others have not even made a claim.

The winter fuel payment was introduced in the winter of 1997-98, when it was worth just 20 per pensioner household, it stayed at 20 the following year, but rose to 100 last winter.

In the current year, it was supposed to rise to 150, but the chancellor increased that to 200 in November.

Christmas deadline

Help the Aged has been monitoring payments of this year's money - and it has found that many pensioners have been paid later than they expected.

When the chancellor announced the increase in the winter fuel payment, he said cheques would begin to be sent out within days.

But many people may not receive theirs until Christmas.

And that is partly because the benefit is worked out for each household rather than per pensioner.

Help the Aged says that anyone who has made a claim for winter fuel payment or who is on state pension or other benefits should be getting their money by Christmas.

But it says that men between 60 and 65 years of age, who are not receiving social security benefits, should contact the DSS to see if they can make a claim.

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02 Nov 00 | Pre budget report
Chasing the grey vote
04 Dec 00 | Scotland
Poverty 'killing' elderly
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