OAPs would qualify for fuel payment

Pensioners in France would get Winter Fuel Payment, if UK ministers had not used overseas territories in calculations

THE UK government’s own figures showed that pensioners would qualify for Winter Fuel Payments in France, had ministers not included tropical overseas territories in their assessment of the country’s climate.

The UK will withdraw the WFP from pensioners in France from 2015 because the country’s average winter temperature was considered higher than the warmest area of the UK – the south west of England.

Pensioners in Italy were spared their benefit on account of their country being colder.

The Department of Work and Pensions later admitted it had used France’s tropical overseas departments, the Doms, (inhabited by roughly 30 UK pensioners) when calculating the average temperature.

However, an examination of the raw data used by the DWP, which was provided by the University of East Anglia, shows clearly that the average winter temperature of France and Corsica was 5.08C, while the south-west of England was 5.6C.

French resident Roger Boaden, a supporter of expat rights website Pensioner’s Debout, contacted the director of the Climatic Research Unit at the UEA, Professor Philip Jones, for information and was directed to data that was used by the government.

Prof Jones added he thought it “absurd” to include “distant” places like Martinique or French Guyana in the definition of France.

The DWP has stated it did so because the Doms are considered part of France – and therefore the EU – and British pensioners there can claim the WFP. This is despite the fact that recent data show only around 30 British OAPs live in the Doms compared to 59,600 in mainland France.

Brian Cave, of Pensioners Debout and www.votes-for-expat-brits.com, said: “It’s clear that the DWP added in the Doms figures for France, because the university did not include them.

“I find that scientifically dishonest and a corruption of the figures to suit their ends. Spain has the largest number of WFP claimants and France next, and they made sure those two countries were removed.”

DWP Minister Iain Duncan Smith this week revealed that the DWP paid a record £21.4million to nearly 120,000 OAPs across the European Economic Area in 2012-2013; including £5.1m to people in France.

He said the figure had risen due to a European Court of Justice ruling last year which obliged the UK to give WFPs to expats in Europe who could prove “sufficient links” with Britain, such as living and working there for most of their lives, whereas previous rules required people to have reached qualifying age (currently women’s pension age) while living in the UK.

Mr Duncan Smith blamed the ruling for what he called a “huge increase in WFPs made to people living in EEA countries [which] equates to a near doubling in costs to the British taxpayer,” adding that from winter 2015-16 the rules would be changed.
Photo: snty-tact (Talk)