More elderly people in Bedford received help to pay their heating bills last winter

With the cold months approaching, charities say aid promised by Government is inadequate
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More elderly people in Bedford received Government support to help heat their homes last winter, new figures show.

As the cold months are approaching, charities said the aid promised by the Government is inadequate and called for "further targeted energy bill support to protect households this winter".

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Department for Work and Pensions figures show 29,062 pensioners in Bedford received help in 2022-23 – up from 28,655 the year beforeDepartment for Work and Pensions figures show 29,062 pensioners in Bedford received help in 2022-23 – up from 28,655 the year before
Department for Work and Pensions figures show 29,062 pensioners in Bedford received help in 2022-23 – up from 28,655 the year before
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The Winter Fuel Payments scheme is a tax-free annual benefit paid to people over pension credit age to help them with their bills as temperatures drop.

Department for Work and Pensions figures show 29,062 pensioners in Bedford received help in 2022-23 – up from 28,655 the year before.

Across Great Britain, just over 119,000 more people got a payment between £250 and £600 than during winter 2021-22.

However, Peter Smith, director of policy at National Energy Action, said the increase does not come as a surprise, since there was a significant decline in the number of recipients in the years during and after the pandemic.

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"More people are becoming eligible for first time and fewer are passing into the higher payment rate category.

"For these reasons, more people are eligible but not receiving the higher payment," he said.

Most people who secured payments across Great Britain last year were aged over 80.

The same was true for pensioners from the same age group in Bedford, where they received 8,284 payments.

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Simon Francis, coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition said: "The level of support promised so far by the Government for the cold months ahead is totally inadequate. As a result, pensioners – and many other vulnerable groups – will face the winter with uncertainty and dread."

He added: "The Government should also introduce an emergency energy tariff for certain groups in need and provide local authorities with the funding they require to provide crisis support through the Household Support Fund."

Elderly people in the East of England received around 1.1 million payments, while more than 1.6 million were paid in the South East – the most in Great Britain.

An additional payment of either £150 or £300 to help pensioners with the cost-of-living crisis was paid alongside the heating bills support, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said will be available this year again to support the elderly "through the challenging times of inflation".

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A Government spokesperson said: "We have protected pensioners with the biggest State Pension increase in history this year as well as boosting Pension Credit – worth around £3,500 a year for those on the lowest incomes. This Government is committed to the triple lock.

"On top of Winter Fuel Payments, pensioners will get another £300 this winter to help with essential costs, and we are bearing down on inflation to make everyone’s money go further."

The winter fuel payment is made to anyone who was born on or before September 25, 1957, and lived in the UK for at least one day during the qualifying week, which this year began on September 18.

The amount someone receives depends on their age, household circumstances and the benefits they received in the qualifying week.