Winter heating aid for the elderly – it’s like trying to get blood from a stone

by Colin Campbell

WHILE the world and his wife are supposedly transfixed by COP26 and the global warming jamboree in Glasgow, closer to home many people are equally if not much more concerned with another climate emergency they’re about to face head on.

Amid warnings that fuel prices are rising steeply, their main worry is the winter freezing crisis which lies ahead, particularly affecting elderly folk.

I’ve written each year around this time, here and previously in papers I worked for, urging the council, now the “Net Zero council”, to increase the miserly pittance they offer in Winter Payment cash to those in greatest need.

This comes out of the multi million pound Common Good fund for people in Inverness.

And over the years a couple of quid or maybe a fiver has been added on here and there, so that the amount that could be claimed last winter rose to a princely £86.

But anyone thinking it’s easy to get even that much in winter fuel support would be wrong.

Here’s how the Inverness branch of the green obsessed Net Zero council “encouraged” people to try and get that still miserly 86 quid to help meet fuel bills last year.


Residents of the 7 Inverness Wards are encouraged to apply for the one-off £86 winter payment, if any of the following applies to them: 

  • aged 90 or older on or before 28 February 2021 irrespective of savings; or
  • receive a Scottish Welfare Fund Crisis Grant Payment between 1 December 2020 and 28 February 2021;
  • receive Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit);
  • have a child/children under the age of five and you must be in receipt of Income Support; Income Based Jobseekers Allowance; Universal Credit; or Income Based Employment and Support Allowance;
  • in receipt of:
    • Pension Credit (Savings Credit);
    • Income Support;
    • Universal Credit;
    • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance;
    • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance;
    • Incapacity Benefit. 

The applicant must also have someone who lives in their household who is receiving: 

  • Attendance Allowance;
  • Middle or high rate Disability Living Allowance (care component);
  • War Widow’s or War Widower’s pension;
  • Personal Independence payment (daily-living component);
  • Armed Forces Independence payment.

In addition, applicants must be able to confirm that there are no residents in the household in receipt of a wage either now or in the previous calendar month or with capital in excess of £6,000. This does not apply if they will be aged 90 or over on or before 28 February 2021 or if they received a Scottish Welfare Fund Crisis Grant Payment between 1 December 2020 to 28 February 2021.  Only one application per household will be accepted.

So as I read that, not only do you have to be absolutely stone broke to qualify and “confirm” that you are, if you are receiving Pension Credit, Income Support or another benefit, you must also be living with someone in another category, such as someone receiving disability money or a war widow’s pension.

That is not exactly “encouraging”.

I clicked on the next link on the council website (and God knows how you get the money if you’re elderly without a computer) and this is what it said:

         How to claim

This scheme is currently closed and not accepting applications.

The Welfare Support Team provide free, impartial and confidential support to claim all benefits and entitlements including the Inverness Winter Payments Scheme.

So if you waded through all the criteria for securing your £86 winter fuel payment the next information you received was: “This scheme is currently closed and not accepting applications.”

Although if you managed to get in touch with someone from the “Welfare Support Team” who actually knew what was going on, they might have been able to help.

How the hell was that supposed to be “encouraging”? It’d be easier to get blood out of a stone.

This was a demeaning and disgraceful way to treat those in greatest need at the time when they needed it most. And I’m sure many did need it. The first six weeks of last January were freezing, among the coldest in record.

So anyone trying to apply for this small amount of money was hit with all this, and that’s even before downloading and trying to fill in the extensive application form.

Meanwhile, the Net Zero council could afford to splurge £280,000 Common Good money – from the winter fuel aid fund –  on riverside “artwork”, which is obviously a much greater priority than helping vulnerable and particularly elderly people keep warm over the winter.

Around now, when this should be at the forefront of their agenda for the coming winter, if they can drag their minds off their carbon neutral, green Save the Planet obsession, is it too much to ask the Net Zero council that they should increase the winter payments and make them much easier to get and not seem so determined to force people to give up even trying?

Or are they now so in thrall to Greta Thunberg and the rest of the near histrionic Save the Planet assemblage in Glasgow that the freezing winter concerns of the elderly and vulnerable in their own backyard will have slipped their minds altogether?

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