December 9th 2009
I qualify to receive winter fuel payment. At present I am relatively young and in rude health and working. There may come a time when that is not so and if and when I need assistance I shall take it but for the moment let me make it a matter of record that if I find that an allowance has been paid to me then it will be forwarded immediately to an appropriate charity.
There are, however, many people that do desperately need help with their heating bills and who do not get it because they are too young. Those in wheelchairs or otherwise disabled to the point where they cannot move around to keep warm, for instance, and those recently highlighted by Professor Karol Sikora who are undergoing treatment for cancers.
I do not believe that high taxation assists our economy and I think that people should be left with as much of their hard-earned money in their own pockets as possible rather that having it taken from them and spent by a profligate nanny state. Neither have I ever been in favour, as a matter of principle, in means-tested benefits. However, in an age when Government is making depressingly regular visits to the pawnshop it is madness, is it not, to give money to people whose need is minimal while denying help to those who are in no position to adequately provide for themselves. This applies not only to winter fuel payments but to some tax credits and to some other benefits and "free" concessions also.
I would like to think that the next government, which I trust will indeed be Conservative, will make a real effort to rein back the welfare state, to target assistance where it is most needed and to ensure that, as David Cameron has said, we shall enable those who can do so to take responsibility for themselves while making better and fairer provision for those who cannot do so. That, perhaps, is the real difference between socialism and social justice.
We could make a start by removing winter fuel payments from those in the higher rate tax bracket and using the money to give the benefit to perhaps younger but more deserving cases.