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UK’s winter fuel rules changed

Expats in France who were previously barred from claiming the UK’s winter fuel payment may now be eligible

MANY UK pensioners living in France may now be eligible for this year’s winter fuel payment.

Following a ruling by the European Court of Justice, the UK has had to ditch rules which previously stated that you needed to qualify for the payment before leaving the UK in order to claim while living abroad. This meant reaching age 60 by, or before, a certain “qualifying week”, usually in September of the year of the claim.

This ruled out people who became resident outside the UK before age 60. Also excluded was anyone who left the UK before the winter fuel payments were introduced in 1998.

Under the new rules, the only requirement is that a claimant should be of suitable age and “have a genuine and sufficient link with the UK, for example, you have lived or worked in the UK for most of your working life”.

In a letter to one couple in France, who left before 1998 (published on expats' campaigns site Pensioners Debout) the UK’s Pension Service said that “to assess this we will consider several factors, for example how long someone has lived and worked in the UK and whether they receive UK state pension or other benefits”.

The UK’s Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, reportedly called the EU ruling “ridiculous” and said he was looking at creating a rule on eligibility according to the temperature of the country the pensioner lives in. This follows outrage in the UK tabloid press about taxpayers being “squeezed” so as to fund expats in hot countries.

This year, under the new rules, the age requirements to qualify are that you should have been born on or before July 5, 1951 in order to claim the payment for winter 2012/13. Connexion will be querying why this appears to be stricter than the old “qualifying week” arrangements.

Claims can be put in up until March 31 next year and the payments are £200, or £300 (per household) for people aged 80 or more on or before September 23 this year. The amounts dropped as of last winter, from £250 and £400 in winter 2009/10.

See September’s issue of the paper for more on these changes.

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