While Winter Fuel Payments are directed towards the elderly, the UK Autism Foundation has appealed to the Chancellor Alistair Darling to help all families with autism and Asperger's Syndrome who are in low-income households. There are families with autism who who have had to choose between heating and eating as they struggle to cope with life during the economic crisis.
Ivan Corea of the UK Autism Foundation said: 'We are delighted that DWP Minister Rosie Winterton is taking a long hard look at Autism and Winter Fuel Poverty. We urge Rose Winterton and Her Majesty's Government to look at the whole issue of Winter Fuel Payments and increase them for families with autism and Asperger's Syndrome in the 2009 Budget. The recession is affecting so many families with autism. Life is hard in any case, on a daily basis and the deepening recession is making matters worse. Parents, carers,children and adults with autism and Asperger's Syndrome in the UK need urgent financial help and support.'
Support for the UKAF's call came from parliamentarians of all parties in the House of Commons, in Westminster, with 55 MPs signing an early day motion (EDM 281) tabled by Rudi Vis MP on Autism and Winter Fuel Poverty in December last year.
DWP Minister Rosie Winterton has replied Ivan Corea's call to the Chancellor Alistair Darling to increase Winter Fuel Payments. The Minster said: ' We have negotiated a voluntary agreement with energy suppliers which means that the total level of assistance offered to vulnerable households by suppliers will increase to £150 million a year by 2011.' She added 'You may be interested to know that, as the Chancellor announced in his Pre-Budget report in November last year, for 2008/09 only, an extra payment of £60 will be made on top of the £10 Christmas Bonus. The Christmas Bonus is payable to those in receipt of a qualifying benefit during the relevant week.'
The DWP has also requested people to contact the following helplines regarding winter fuel payments:
Disability Living Allowance and the disability premiums in the income-related benefits provide additional weekly payments and are related to the individual's circumstances. The most severely disabled people receive an additional amount of almost £8,000 per year in recognition of their extra costs. Employment and Support Allowance customers can receive an additional component for disability after 13 weeks rather than waiting 52 weeks for the payment of a disability premium as with Income Support. Where the support component is payable, there is also automatic entitlement to the enhanced disability premium (currently £12.60 for a single person).People can find out more about these benefits by telephoning the Benefit Inquiry Line on 0800 88 22 00.
For information on the Warm Front, the main program for tackling winter fuel poverty in the private sector in England, providing grants for insulation and home improvements to households in receipt of qualifying benefits - householders should call 0800 316 6011. Householders in Wales should call 0800 316 2815, householders in Scotland should call 0800 316 6009 to find out more about Warm Deal or 0800 316 1653 to find out more about the Central Heating Program, householders in Northern Ireland should call 0800 181 667 to find out more about the Warm Homes scheme.
To check whether a competing energy supplier can offer a better deal customers can can contact Consumer Direct on its consumer helpline, 08454 04 05 06. The Home Heat Helpline, 0800 33 66 99, run by the energy companies can also supply on fuel matters, including discounts that are available to certain groups of people.
It has been established from a Parliamentary Answer given in the Scottish Parliament on 19 January that it costs 28% more to heat a semi-detached house in Dundee than in Bristol and 29% more to heat a detached house in Dundee than its counterpart in Bristol.
Despite this, the Cold Weather payments system takes no account of that and is uniform across the UK. The payments are based purely on temperature triggers over seven consecutive days. Nor do they take account of wind-chill factor.
People are eligible for a Cold Weather Payment if they get Pension Credit, Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or one of more of a variety of other benefits.
If you also have a child under five or get pensioner premium, or higher pensioner premium or an enhanced pensioner premium, you are entitled to the payments. Other qualifying benefits include disability premium or severe disability premium, a disabled child premium. If you are in receipt of a Child Tax Credit which includes an individual element for a child or qualifying young person who is disabled or severely disabled, you are also eligible.
UK Autism Foundation
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