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To wonder why child benefit is now means tested but winter fuel payments aren't.

(201 Posts)
ImagineJL Mon 03-Dec-12 22:52:18

I can see the argument for reducing and removing child benefit for high earners (despite the fact that I am losing money myself), but why not apply the same principle to winter fuel payments? A colleague of mine is a hospital consultant, earning over 100k a year, so has just lost all his child benefit. But he still gets his winter fuel payment.

It seems a bit strange.

LettyAshton Thu 06-Dec-12 16:17:36

The thing is it's not the current pensioners who will suffer, but the mugs trundling along behind.

When (if) we ever retire (those of us in 40s), there will be no free bus passes, WFA, free prescriptions etc. I am thinking Logan's Run...

Fil has been retired for 30 years. 30 years picking up free this, that and the other and still moaning about his lot. Makes me [frangry]

BoulevardOfBrokenSleep Thu 06-Dec-12 16:23:06

Like wordfactory says, WFA isn't supposed to be a little Xmas bonus.

It was started up because of the problem of pensioners dying of hypothermia in the winter because they couldn't afford to put their heating on.

So if you're not in danger of hypothermia, whether that's because you now live in Spain, or because your heating bill is a fraction of your cruise holiday bill... then you shouldn't be getting WFA.

presceccoilove Thu 06-Dec-12 16:26:48

I know plenty of older folk who receive the winter fuel allowance and dont need it as they are wealthy already.
It is puzzling why this is not means tested, the CB is now taxed if you earn over £50,000 and it is no longer available if you earn over £60,000. But if you are a couple and earn upto £49,500 each then you are allowed to keep your CB in full. Crazy rules.
I find the whole CB system bizarre, if you are from an EU country (Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Hungary, Latvia etc) there are special rules that apply whereby you can come to the UK 'seeking' work and you can apply for CB to go to your children who are not living in the UK with you, these are called portable CB. Again this is crazy, a UK taxpayer earning over £60,000 is supplementing children overseas whose parent has never paid tax in the UK.

Virtuallyarts Thu 06-Dec-12 16:33:01

There is an argument why WFa or any benefit should not be restricted to those in poverty or need though - that ultimately, universalism is the way to ensure those benefits continue and leads to a more cohesive society.

Also the economic argument that any means tested benefits may have the unintended effect of discouraging people to save (though whether WFA is a large enough amount to affect behaviour except at the margins is debatable). I think (not sure, but I have read this somewhere) that it is already recognised that there is a category of people for whom it doesn't make economic sense to save for retirement, because they won't ever be able to save enough to get beyond the point at which they get the same amount of means tested retirement benefit if they didn't save. This doesn't get talked about much. Any more means tested benefits would increase that category. (Cheerful, as someone else said!)

Not all doom and gloom though! - productivity is increasing all the time, so we no longer need as many workers to support a pensioner. After all, there are now massively more pensioners/worker than in 1918 - yet we really are far richer in the UK than we were then. productivity has increased so much that workers are able to support the non-income earning (who of course may also be working! voluntary work, caring for gcs etc)

PolkadotCircus Thu 06-Dec-12 16:33:18

.....and paying for free bus passes,WFA etc they'll never get themselves for people who don't even need it.confused

It's this blatant unfairness they don't give a stuff about I find scary tbh.

Virtuallyarts Thu 06-Dec-12 16:38:55

Aha - loads of posts since I started typing the previous one. Feel I have to repeat, to be fair, that none of the babyboomers I know are selfish every person for him/herselfers - many are really worried about next generation, and the problems - which in general they have not caused! If the cause of probs is basically higher housing costs, then that is outside their control...

(Unless they oppose planning applications, I suppose!)

Virtuallyarts Thu 06-Dec-12 16:44:59

There was a very interesting post on another thread about cb, to the effect of 'be very wary of defining entitlement to benefits based on a decision about which people are 'really' in 'need''.
The example the poster gave was that it's very easy to say dcs don't really 'need' Christmas presents. Similarly, none of us really 'need' central heating (many didn't have it as children, freezing all the time); to be able to go to a restaurant once a year, buy a newspaper, buy a bar of chocolate etc. If you have a welfare system which is purely 'needs' based, eventually benefits may eventually be reduced to a very low level indeed. Other poster explained it more clearly. Where are you, other poster?

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Thu 06-Dec-12 17:28:08

The other poster wasn't me, but I agree with the sentiment. I don't think we can have it both ways, but it seems that that's what some people want.

It doesn't make sense to me when people on her think that it's ok for people living on out of work benefits to conceive children, to have pets, to have UK holidays, but then say its unfair that pensioners receive things that they don't need either.

I find that many posters on MN want government help to only go to the very poor, and I don't think that's right. I like our welfare state to be there for everyone. After all, we want everyone that possibly can to pay tax, so everyone that possibly can should get something in return.

georgettemagritte Thu 06-Dec-12 17:41:06

polkadotcircus re which political party will start facing up to this - I don't know, I really don't sad I find it very dispiriting that none of the mainstream parties are really acknowledging the situation. I'm am quite politically active (I used to work in politics, in a think tank), but I've asked this question at a few non-partisan events and just got standard waffle from representatives of all parties about how difficult it is to sort out the economic crisis and how no-one knows what to do about it. Very frustrating! The demographic voting bloc will switch just after 2020, though, when suddenly the grey vote won't have as much power, and really if the mainstream parties were thinking properly they ought to be preparing for this or they will be taken by surprise at the backlash I think - but short-termism rules until then, I fear.

virtuallyarts but all that increased productivity wealth has gone to the most wealthy, to corporates, and to capital accumulation and speculation (the majority of which hasn't been taxed) - the median worker has definitely not got better off in real terms and really isn't better able to support more pensioners per head (the figures for income in real terms clearly show that average workers' incomes have stagnated, not increased, and that what looked like a rise in living standards over the last 15 years was illusory because it was actually funded by increased debt - the average worker is no better off than in the late 70s but is also servicing much higher debt levels). There is already a submerged panic in the financial sector and among policy makers about the coming pensions crisis which is quite clear that we are not going to be able to support more pensioners per head - see the Turner reports on pensions from 2004-6 for example, which are quite stark about the problem and how unaffordable the current situation is. Both the last govt and the previous one simply put their heads in the sand because the problem is just too big and scary to deal with.... I don't think there are any easy solutions (though a quick and sharp asset price correction would help - a few people would be in negative equity but younger workers' housing costs would reduce massively, thus allowing them to fund older generations' upcoming pensions much more easily via taxation. The older generations would not lose out, since their housing inflation was always unearned to begin with; and there would also be less need for them to sell their houses to fund care).

Virtuallyarts Thu 06-Dec-12 17:57:02

Again very interesting, GM! Though where the increased productivity goes to corporates and capital accumulation, whose hands does it actually end up in? If it is corporate profits, then ultimately to shareholders, who in many cases are pension funds. So although it may seem to be going to 'capital' rather than labour, more may be going to workers than at first appears, because it is going to fund their....pensions! (back to the issue in hand).

I am not convinced by the conventional 'unaffordability' argument about the increasing number of pensioner - if the wealth and productivity is there but is currently in the 'wrong' hands, it is a problem of distribution of the wealth, not of absence of it altogether. I realise I am in a minority not to be convinced by the forecasts of doom, though. Maybe I too am head in sand! As for the distribution of income, it may be an issue of the decline in bargaining power - weaker trade unions.

As for house prices - I can never understand why increasing prices are regarded as a good thing! Cheer returns to housing market etc. Not really; those who haven't bought can't afford to, and those who have are worried that their children can't afford to! Is anyone actually cheered?

Viviennemary Thu 06-Dec-12 18:13:12

Maybe raising the qualifying age for winter fuel allowance to 70 or 75 and stop the ridiculous £10 Christmas bonus would be a start. And certainly people living in Spain shouldn't be eligible.

georgettemagritte Thu 06-Dec-12 18:23:20

Agree with you about trade union weakness being a contributing factor - and that house price rises benefit very few people in the long run (though I know plenty of boomers and older pensioners who crow about how much their houses are worth and then in the next moment can't work out how their children can't buy a house and they have no grandchildren - I'm glad you know some sensible ones as I haven't met many!) Re the increased wealth - as far as I know the stats show it's largely gone to the salaries, bonuses and assets of the very rich, who have vastly increased their personal wealth: also the money that has gone to pension funds via shareholder profits has had a lot of money skimmed off in fund management charges as well (which goes back to city salaries and bonuses), so many private pension funds are struggling and won't in fact be paying out as much to their actual pensioners as many people expect...

Abra1d Thu 06-Dec-12 18:56:07

Not to mention the skimming off Gordon Brown did of private pension funds by taxing dividends. That has hit me and other self-employed, moderately earning people so badly.

Cathycomehome Thu 06-Dec-12 19:44:47

So much bitterness towards parents. Mine DID struggle much like parents of young children do now when their kids are little and they're paying for childcare. Yes, they own their house outright, it took them 25 years to do it, like many mortgages now. They are now in receipt of my dad's good pension, my mum's less good, and manage and can buy a few luxuries, and they go abroad once a year. We can't go on holiday, we can't afford it, neither could they when they were young. My mum and dad help us a lot, emotionally, practically and occasionally financially.

They also have my (very demanding) grandfather living with them.

My mum LOVES being able to buy my kids nice things, as when she was at home when she was my age, the most she bought for herself was a cake on a Friday. I begrudge them nothing, and am grateful to them for my happy loving upbringing.

mam29 Thu 06-Dec-12 20:01:16

I agree said in another thread that wfa should go.

bus passes alligned with pension credits seems simple and cheap.

Im not against poor pensioners getting it.

the idea they have car and bus madness?
surly they have dvla records to prove whos driving.

anyone whos works 16hours week+pays ni thats not exclusive to pensioners.

The fact its ok to means test child benefit yet too expensive to touch pensioners irks me.

I was in building soceity with pensioner infront of me discussing hos thousands in different isas.

Im sure there are poor pensioners my 1set grandparents have and always been quite poor.Luckily they had council house again much easier back then than now.Even por pensioners who brought their council house have done well.

but my parents could

buy house 1income
too advantage of free childcare from both grandparents
dad went to grammer school.

my dads just brought huge house 4beds just him and his girlfreind.
they both still working
run 2cars

my mums not pensioner yet shes in her 50s, her husnand ears 14k as a mechanic. due to equity I guess shes just brought 250k house.
have no idea how I dont ask
They go abroad least once a year.

she says shes brought up her kids cant expect her to babysit although distance is huge factor but even if lived in same town I know she be equally as selfish.
she moans cant afford the £12 train fare
she refused to take the bus.

I often meet and chat to local pensioners its like im a op magnet must have a freindly face.

When I whinge at bust stop about increase in fares thet say wouldent know love get mine for free-I often walk with kiddies in the cold as bus is extortionate and dont always have change on me.

Most of larger houses in very affluent postcode owned by pensioners.

When i went to slimming club all the older ladies talked about take that concerts, hols abroad, cruises, frequent lunch out its was crazy spending. One lovley lady told me how hard it is decorating I said I sypathise hubbys continiually trying to do stuff, she meany making cups tea for the decoraters. When she suggested swimming it was private health club membership and their downfalls were always meals out, holidays and booze.

my next door neighbour but one is nightmare busy body often looking down on us as we rent

Inlaws-fil sadly died few years back.he was a carpenter.
he died with 10grand in his current account.

Im in my 30s, hubbys 40.
we have 3kids
private rent
im at home as childcare with 3 would be £1800 a month.
we have no savings, no pension.
we just about get by each month.
havent been abroad since kids were born.
they brought their house for 3grand probably worth 150-160k now. Mil does ok she worked part time, her mother babysat shes fine for money and doubtful she needs it.
I was 1st year pf uni tiution feessmileluckily they were £1200 a year then not 9grand.

I worry about our kids.
lost tax credits in april.
hope dont lose cb but reckon if lower threshold will happen.
I hope they dont axe the 15hour childcare
my school age child doesnt have school dinners very often as thats extra £40 a month we just struggle to find.

I cant see us ever owning least without inheritance.
As for pensions I just dont know we will have to work until we 70.

im really cross about it all but as they have higher proportion of vote and wealth they rule.

I feel like we live in diffrent worlds.
When i see the financial supplements in paper i think these are not designed for my generation surly?

ihategeorgeosborne Thu 06-Dec-12 21:30:13

mam29, we are in a similar situation to yourself. I am SAHM to 3 dc. I will go back to work at some point, but childcare very expensive, as youngest is only 1. Also DH works away a lot, so someone needs to be around to take dc to school, after school clubs, etc. We lost tax credits in 2011 and will lose some CB next year. Like you, we rent, have an 11 year old car which is knackered. We don't go away, we don't go out as can't afford a baby sitter. We never get a takeaway. I've been buying some presents for xmas from charity shops, along with most of our clothes.

PIL are really wealthy. They retired at 50. They have a big 5 bed detached house and loads of land, another cottage and a house abroad. They have a decent pension. They cannot understand why we live in a tiny rented house. I've given up trying to explain. My Dad is no quite so well off, but owns his outright and probably has over 100k in savings and investments. Both sets of parents are really tight fisted with money and don't even buy dc presents. This they say is because they are getting no interest on their savings!!

I have had enough. Dh pays nearly as much in commuting costs as we do in rent. There is no money left at the end of month. The bottom line is that if my family are wealthy enough to lose CB, then I'm damn sure they can live without WFA, bus pass, etc.

LettyAshton Thu 06-Dec-12 21:34:05

I agree about the finance pages in the papers. Always pensioners grinning smugly and talking about SIPS and whatnot and whether to buy a third buy-to-let.

Georgette - why will the demographic change in 2020? That is in only 8 years time.

ihategeorgeosborne Thu 06-Dec-12 21:41:55

Oh, and I get really pissed of with hearing the same old line of "we worked really hard to get what we have". I'm sure they did, but do they think we don't?

Redbindy Thu 06-Dec-12 23:38:04

They and We? Lets bash pensioners shall we? I saved for my pensions, and pay tax on them. Why should my taxes subsidise other peoples babies? Especially chavs - but that's another thread.

georgettemagritte Fri 07-Dec-12 00:08:30

Redbindy - other people's babies will be paying for your state pension, your healthcare, social care, social infrastructure that you will rely on. They will also work to provide the returns that will fund your private annuity being paid out (how else do you think private pension funds pay out annuities over up to 30 years of uncertain inflation - the money doesn't just sit in an account waiting for you to collect it! The fund can only pay it out if they are generating constant returns from investments elsewhere - that will be produced by the work of other people's children). Other people's babies will be your doctors, healthcare workers, police to make sure you are safe at night when you are 80, will serve you in shops, fund your public transport when you can't drive, help you walk when you aren't mobile, dress and wash when you can't manage it. Isn't it prudent for the wealthy pensioners of today to reflect on what will happen when they really need to depend on the resources of smaller, less wealthy generations coming up behind? For example, what happens if lots of people over the next 10-15 years find they need to sell their houses to fund health and social care, but the generations below just don't earn enough to afford the current inflated prices (but don't earn enough to fund that health and social care out of general taxation either)?

Virtuallyarts Fri 07-Dec-12 07:09:12

Those who say wfa should be means tested - what income and assets would be your 'cut off'? Above that cut off do you reduce it pound for pound ? Or does the pensioner lose £1 for every £2 their income or assets goes above the cut off?

It's interesting - those who said at the time that means testing cb was an attack on universality generally seem to have had a point - it has led to the view that if cb is means tested why isn't wfa, tv licence? Quite a Paradox that cutting one benefit makes it easier to cut the next one as diferent parts of society turn against each other. It seems to support the theory that means testing leads to welfare being less popular generally.

mam29 Fri 07-Dec-12 09:46:55

current oaps have option of pensions private and public.
better pensions than availaible now.

They have option of selling home pay for care.

current

have huge debts to get good jobs
how they then supposts top afford to buy home, have familyand pay a pension?

Also lets not mention public/private divide.

we will end up with generation not owning paying high rents to generations older than them for rest of their lives.
Then they will be working longer, no gold course be much poorer pensioners in the future.

Right now my sympathy is with the 16-15age group.

not pensioners.

I wouldent mind if the greatful

but some so msug
always whinging
so entitled.

They are as george osbourne says
the ones with curtains closed when others go to work
yet they not demoised yes they get 2%but jsa get 1% in statement.

They moan about low interest rates wouldnet you have to have very high amount in bank to live off interest as think my savings accounts was £1 last year.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Fri 07-Dec-12 10:49:31

Don't you think that at the time the elderly of today were working, they took whatever option they had in exactly the same way we do now?

You talk as if everyone who is retired was handed a great big pile of cash on a golden plate. They worked and did what they thought was best, they didn't plan for the economy to go tits up, they didn't make some arrangement to ensure that they had free tuition and buy houses that would go shooting up in value. And plenty of them do help the younger generations if they can.

If they are able to help their younger family members and they don't, then that's a fault that lies with the individuals, not pensioners as a whole. If they aren't in a position to help, which many many pensioners aren't, then they were probably in a situation during their working lives that is not too different from our own.

I also have sympathy with today's teenagers and young people, but some of the responsibility lies with their parents generation too. People are having children with no secure means of supporting them and giving them a good start into adult life, that isn't the fault of pensioners.

mam29 Fri 07-Dec-12 13:11:32

I dont think anyones dissing pensioners as entire group.

the country has no money needs to be better targeted to those in needs and cuts should be fair.

No ones saying pensioners havent worked hard.

but so do most genartions hours seem longer these days
uk has longest workout hours in europe.

many people includind young people 16-15 cant get on career laded in order to work hard.

Many people are unemployed.

rise in using foodbanks

living costs in uk are very high if you working and not in rceipt of benefits the tax is huge %taken away.

I think most generations want same thing

rood over head
family
job
that they can afford to live and pay all their bills

I know they dident have a crystel ball.

not all are bad

but when hear them moaning when they quite clearly wealthy think they out of touch.

Virtuallyarts Fri 07-Dec-12 15:31:16

The thing about 'targeting' benefits though, is that then people will alter their behaviour to be in the target range if the incentive is high enough - spend rather than save, work fewer hours etc.
On the face of it it sounds right to say 'money should go to those that need it' - but if it encourages people to make sure they are in the group that Someone has decided 'needs' it, the overall economic effect may not be what people want.

What figure would those who want it to be means tested say would be right for the threshold - how much pension or assets do you have to have before you don't 'need' wfa?

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