UK government to strip expats of Winter Fuel Allowance

LAST UPDATED: 28 Jun, 2013 @ 23:51
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UK government to strip expats of Winter Fuel Allowance

BRITISH expats will be banned from claiming Winter Fuel Allowance, saving over €30million a year.

The move is expected to affect over 60,000 pensioners in Spain as the UK government strips those living in hot countries of the award to stay warm in the winter months.

However, many expats have already voiced their concerns at the decision stating that in inland Malaga, just 50 miles inland from the Costa del Sol, temperatures can drop to minus 15 degrees in winter.

Terry Edwards, a pensioner living near Malaga, describes a winter with frost on the ground.

“I live up in the mountains, about half an hour from the coast—my place is 120 years old and can get very cold,” he said.

However, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said: “I’m not in favour of pensioners in Malaga getting winter fuel allowance.”

The change is set to go into effect in 2015.

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35 COMMENTS

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  1. If you are concerned about losing winter fuel allowance-which my well be just a first step in stripping ex pats of benefits sign this petition

    “http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43238”

    Don’t assume somebody else is going to fight for you.

  2. I can see that happening. I know in the US, assistance for heating would only be available if you lived here – not as a citizen living in another country.

  3. I appreciate that it does get cold in the mountains and hills in Spain in the winter, but the coastal areas surely can’t get down to the temps that we had in the UK last winter (and it was a long winter)and for that reason alone I’m not sure that I could say that all ex-pat pensioners are entitled to the winter fuel allowance unless they can prove to the government that the temperatures are consistently below a certain level.

    I’m a pensioner in the UK and we had our first winter fuel allowance payment last year and it was very useful to help pay the winter bill. However, if the government decided to stop it altogether for everyone other than those on benefits then that would be fine by us, people would have to make adjustments, put on an extra jumper, heat only one room (we do that now!). We aren’t rich by any means and currently live on our savings, but we could survive without it if we had to.

    It would, be a good idea if pensioners whether in the UK or abroad, were means tested and the average winter temperature taken and then a decision made as to whether they should be paid the allowance or not. I’m not sure how the costs of Spanish heating compares to the UK though so that may also need to be taken into account.

    The problem is, economies need to be made in every country and unfortunately sometimes governments have to make hard decisions and in this case its landed on the winter fuel allowance for ex pats.

    Whatever happens it will be tough on somebody.

  4. Would not object at all as long as they take money off all the wasters that will not work. I have worked and paid in to the system all my life as does my husband. The free loaders have never paid anything. Sort the scroungers outfits before. Taking from pensioners…

  5. If you live on the ‘shady side of the street’ it’s freezing in winter in Spain at the coast, and if you live inland higher up it can be as cold as the uk.

  6. I only received mine for the first time last year after all the fight we put up for it.

    Ok, so what about those so called ex pats that receive because they keep an address in the UK, not their home but possibly a relatives address where their claim is sent to along with perhaps all other sort of benefits.

  7. i think all pensioners should get this payment , as long as our government is paying out for eastern european kids who also dont live here and never have !

  8. I paid my taxes all my working life and, yes, it does get freezing cold up here in the hills. It would make life even more difficult not to get this benefit, as I discovered when my husband passed away and I didn’t receive it again until the law changed.
    Surely it would save more money by using a means test with those on lower incomes still receiving the benefit, no matter where they live. I know of people in the UK who are retired, but still on high incomes, who would cheerfully give up this payment (in fact I remember one friend who tried to refuse it, but the powers that be insisted he received it as he was a pensioner. In the end, he donated it to Age Concern.)

  9. We are pensioners and live near the coast in Nerja. However, although hot in the summer it is cold in the winter. (We did actually have a scattering of snow a few years ago) Houses have tiled or marble floors and thick walls, no central heating. It is therefore necessary have heating during the day and evening. we have a log fire, gas fire and wall-mounted airconditioning heating and need them all on together to combat the cold.

  10. Sorry to disagree with many, but I believe that the UK is correct to do away with benefits for those who have chosen to live abroad, particularly in hot countries such as Spain…..and I am one of those.

    Whilst I am reading comments such as “it gets very cold here in Spain in the winter” I should like to put this into full context. In the summer it is hot that invariably you do not need heating…in fact many will resort to air conditioning – this was your choice. The natural elements of living in Spain in the summer is that it is hot and you can thereby save money in not having to heat your home. If you want it to be cooler then pick somewhere cooler to live or use your air con at your expense.

    Last year my parents who are 86 and 89 years respectively were having to resort to using heating throughout the summer including August when the temperature was 4 degrees only…they are having to face all-year round heating bills, and they do not live an extravagant nor luxurious lifestyle, surviving on one small company pension and the usual state pension. It wasn’t unusual for them to be wrapped in coats in the summer! I along with other often don’t even have to resort to jumper or jacket in the winter months in Spain, and if we do then it is short lived.

    If you chose to live abroad then you should do it with your eyes wide open, not ‘eyes wide shut’ (as the film states)! I have lived in 6 different countries and Spain is the cheapest and one of the most comfortable in which to live in winter – which is why tourists flock to spend their winters here. You chose to live in mountains (no-one twisted your arm) – there has to be a price to that choice; live with it.

  11. I definitely agree with means testing it. As I said in my previous post, we are not rich, my company pension is very small and I don’t start getting the state pension until September this year and my husband won’t get it for another 3 or 4 years. He is self employed and currently with the economic situation as it is, doesn’t earn enough to pay tax so things are tough for us, but if we didn’t get the fuel allowance we would have to go back to doing what we did before we got it.

    Not all people on benefits are scroungers but I do believe we need to be harder on those people who refuse to work. Unfortunately as we are members of the EU we have to pay child benefit to people living in the UK even though their children live in their home country. This is something that should change.

  12. Response to Christine:
    Because we paid our taxes all our working life (and are still paying them even though we live overseas) and never claimed any benefits whatsoever.

  13. yes i worked constantly from 18 until i left the uk 8 years ago (aged 52) and contributed to the tax/N.I system so why am I not entitled to what I contributed to? When i visit the uk I am only entitled to emergency medical treatment even though i paid into the system for many years, some people who live in the uk and who have lived on benefits and never paid a penny into the system are entitled to everything. Please tell me how fair is that.

  14. @Stuart I don’t entirely disagree with your stance but it does over simplify the matter, my wife was getting the WFA under the old rules that is we were getting in the UK before we moved abroad, as it was always a temporary benefit there was every chance a future government could remove it for all. What Osborne has chosen to do is to take a cheap shot at ex pats for political not economic reasons, I would bet one years worth of WFA that this will cost more to administer than it will save.

    Not all ex pats are rich and their reasons for moving abroad will be many and varied, my decision was based on financial, that is living on our pension or existing, health for my wife who benefits from the warmer/drier summers and not living in a crime ridden country like the UK. When doing the sums all I took into account was my wife’s pension and my occupational pension and annual increases to same. What I fear from Osborne’s attitude to the WFA and ex pats is that this may be a first step to claw back even more from ex pats i.e by extending the ban on increases to old age pension as happens in countries like South Africa.

    I suspect that most ex pats are upset not solely because of the removal of the WFA but because they now see a generation raised in a benefits society, like me they worked hard for their entire working lives without such things as child benefit for every child, housing allowance, working tax credits, child care allowances and lord knows how many other in work benefits not to mention the minimum wage. They will be even more upset when they see all these benefits being paid to people who have never worked in the UK or within the EU and made any contribution to the system. They will also not be happy that Osborne indicates the country can no longer afford the 30 million he is saving from withdrawing the WFA from ex pats but that it can afford to send £8.75 billion abroad in so called overseas aid.

    I still pay tax in the UK on an occupational pension but it has already been indicated to me by the FCO that no special arrangements will be made for ex pats living within the EU to vote in the upcoming referendum on EU membership which could have devastating consequences for many if not all of us who have chosen to live our retirement in peace.

    You may be sufficiently well off that all of the above will have no effect on you, that is not the same for all.

  15. Response to Sunny
    I asked(and assuming Maureen did too) because the concept did not register, being an expat from the states sure is different. I’ve paid my taxes too (still do on property and an account I have)but no way could I ever expect to get a benefit for my heating cost once I decided to move outside of the USA.

  16. Osborne knows what a easy target the OAP is so lets take from them again. Just hope he is not expecting us all to give him or his party our votes at the next election which I feel sure he will desperately need.

    And before you all say we cannot vote as we live in Spain, yes we can as I have.

  17. Yes Cindy you can vote but only for fifteen years after leaving the UK and in your old constituency which may not be relevant to you any more. After 15 years as things stand you cannot vote in UK elections or Spanish National elections.

    Don’t lose your vote or voice sign my petition at

    “http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43238”

    and share it, shout about it and badger people to sign, in this case it really is don’t use it lose it.

  18. Can I just ask, why if you have lived abroad for many years do you think that you should have any say in the running of your previous country? If I moved to Spain I wouldn’t expect to be able to vote in my home town in the UK, as it is no longer my home and I wouldn’t be on the electoral roll.

    Someone on the radio the other day was talking about the fact that he’s lived in the UK for 40 years but when he went to renew his Australian passport this time, they refused to issue it as he was no longer considered an Australian citizen. Surely the same should apply here?

    Its all very well expats claiming benefits to which they would be entitled when living in the UK but they have chosen to move out of the UK and to spend their income in Spain and helping the Spanish economy. People can’t have it both ways, whilst I am happy for expats to receive their pensions I do think that you either embrace the whole Spanish lifestyle and consequently the ups and downs of their economy or you return to the UK and claim here, with all the associated problems our economy has.

    I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, but there are thousands of pensioners in the UK struggling to get by who cannot even think about having a holiday in the UK let alone abroad, let alone living abroad and I think the government are prioritising UK residents.

    However, I do think they also need to reduce the budget for overseas aid as I think that is now becoming a total liability for the country.

  19. @Chris
    1.Simple many of us still pay tax in the UK unlike many who are still resident in the UK.
    2. Nearly all of us will have relative in the UK and I still believe in protecting me and mine.
    3.In this global age decisions taken by the UK government can affect us.
    4. As things stand you cannot vote in Spanish national elections although we are supporting the Spanish economy as you put it and paying taxes in Spain via IVA, property tax etc.

    By your logic citizens who go to live in another country should become persona non grata and no doubt stateless if you had your little Englander way.

    As for struggling pensioners in the UK that is everything to do with successive governments not my right to exercise my democratic voice. In case you are not aware French, Italian and many other European ex pats have their own elected MP’s.

  20. A proper dichotomy.

    If a pensioner is still paying taxes in the UK presumably they’re still earning – I’m thinking property investors or owners of companies left behind run by others. I can’t think this was the group of people that Parliament envisaged when they came up with the WFA, I suspect that they were thinking of subsidence pensioners struggling to get by.

    I also wonder if they envisaged paying WFA to a group of people that take their pensions etc completely out of the UK economy and spending it elsewhere.

    But on the whole I think I’m on the side of my Old Mum and Dad who feel that the taxes they dutifully paid all of their working lives were an investement towards their old age – a downpayment on all of the benefits the welfare state had to offer for their generation.

    Think on folks – one day you’ll all be reliant on someone else…..

  21. For the person who commented why should expats receive the winter fuel allowance may I point out that we lived in the UK, paid in for our pension, and still pay taxes in the UK. I don’t have a house there, I don’t cost the health service anything nor do I get a disability living allowance which I would if I lived there. So why should I not receive the winter fuel allowance? They are happy to continue to take my taxes, I am elderly, not very mobile and certainly not rich. It might be

  22. For the people who don’t see why expats should receive the winter fuel allowance may I point out that we lived and worked in the UK and paid in for a full state pension. We continue to pay taxes in the UK. We don’t get to claim benefits for my age related disability, we don’t apply for sheletered housing or any other things and all our health care is paid for by us and the country we live in. The winters are just the same here as we had in the UK and the fuel allowace allows us to buy extra fuel. So, having paid in and continuing to pay taxes why shouldn’t we be entitled to this. It isn’t a crime to live in another EU country and I am now partialy disabled, need care and can’t move about much and am certainly not rich.

  23. When Britian joined the EU the rules said that leaving to find work or to retire does not restrict any rights of benefit one may have from your country of origin,and this is epecially so where such benefits are non existent in your new country of residence. Yet in pracice this has proved not to be the case and where all manor of excuses have been systematically applied. This despite the fact that many ex residents are still required to pay UK taxes on their pensions as I currently do.
    However in the case of benefit allowences such as WFA and dispite yet more ongoing delaying tactics by the UK a recent EU ruling cofirmed the origional EU agreement as sacrosanct by calling on the UK to apply the EU rules as was agreed. In this case the UK was unable to block the ruling and so WFA was open to all ex UK residents.(I hate the word expat)
    This temperture test is just another tactic to not apply the rules and will surely be overruled later by a EU court of human rights or EU law.

  24. so mr cameron you dont think it gets cold in spain how wrong can you be my husband and i have each worked in the u.k for 42 years and never claimed one penny in benefits we are 74 and 77 years old respectivelyso please mr camerom with respect do the decent thing and allow us our fuel allowance

  25. I moved to Galicia in 2004 and my winter fuel allowance was cut immediately. So who are these people who are getting paid the WFA? Also please note anyone who was a government employee or worked for a local authority has to pay UK taxes if they live abroad. As a UK tax payer I am still paying towards keeping Britain a soft touch.

  26. I worked from 15 (part time while at school)till I was 54. I left work due to ill health which in time was resolved. But at 55 was on the scrap heap. I lost my home and moved in with my son, could not afford to buy another house. I lived on a private pension of £430 a month( another pension of a £100 came in at 60). When my pension kicked in it was vastly reduced as being a part timer while my children grew up, did not pay a full stamp. My ex husband gave up work early, so I could not pick up his extra stamps (legally) The only option and after much soul searching, was to move to inland Spain. The rent out here is £300 a month opposed to £600 in the UK (and this would have meant claiming housing benefits).
    The winters here are freezing I was snowed in for 3 days last year! I made my choice on the money I received including the WFP. I have to live frugally, but manage. I am still paying tax in the UK on my paltry pensions of around (euro fluctuates) a 1,000 a month (worked for the government). My point being That while I sat in the job centre every week, Foreigner’s were being advised how to send benefits back to their family’s(claiming for children and wives) in the country they originated from. The stamp was paid for them as was the interpreter! plus housing benefits etc. I was told that I was not eligible to have a full stamp paid so my pension funds would be frozen). I asked why I was expected to sign on every week as I had done for 4 years and was told it was expected of me…. In the 4 years prior to retirement I received no benefits or help of any kind. The government should alter how to dole out the hard working UK peoples money, not give it away to foreigner’s who have never put into the system and intend to return to their own countries as soon as possible. Spain gives me nothing, I do not expect anything. But I do expect what every pensioner in the UK gets as I contributed towards the system. Think again Mr Cameron of where massive amount of savings can be made, not hitting the pensioners who can not find work anywhere due to age………..

  27. The government in the UK should take a winter holiday in Spain, and then tell us it’s not cold. We may have a hotter climate in the summer, that doesn’t mean to say winter is the same. We have known it to be -2 and lower in winter, not to mention the snow. As these houses were built for the heat only, it stands to reason we are cold in winter – not all houses have central heating, including mine, (which incidentally costs a fortune for those who are lucky enough to have it).
    The government in the UK are quick enough to give to foreigners everything they ask for, but quicker still to stop us pensioners from anything due us: they seem to forget we worked for our pensions (albeit a pittance,) for many years to earn our retirement: and what thanks do we get for being hardworking citizens – a slap in the face. Forget giving to every charity abroad, none of whom appreciate it, and start thinking of the British people. We’re not asking for much.

  28. Barbara,
    your tale is a familiar one and the PC crowd will probably be on your case, you have my sympathy – anyone know of one single Brit who demanded S/S in Spain and got it – I did’nt think so.

    In Guadix (altitude 900M) the temps go down real low and -10C is the norm. I now live at 500M in the Aveyron close to the Massif Central and for two winters we have had -17C and indeed we had no water for 10 days in 2011 – Ed Balls/Cameron – you prats go back to school and learn something about mainland Europe.

    For Americans who posted – you obviously know nothing about the EC – go back and look at ken tb’s post – that is the law which all member states are required to follow.

  29. The met office in the UK have now given the government the average winter temperatures for Spain in coming to their conclusion they have included the Canary Islands, Balearic Islands, Ceuta & Melilla (North Africa. We are not alone for France they have included the colonies/departments in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean.

  30. I live in the Spanish Mountains because I suffer greatly from asthma,bronchitis, and a few times pneumonia. The air is wonderful for my health, but, it is freezing cold in the winter as I live near THE SIERRA NEVADA ski slopes. I need to keep my apartment warm, otherwise it negates the clear air essential for my chest.
    I also have arthitis badly, another reason I live here. One winter I couldn`t walk for three months. HEAT is really necessary to my health, but my U.K. pension soon goes, it´s not much, and I CANNOT AFFORD the heat I need.
    I hope this petition is successful,as I know many other OAPS are in the same situation. Mucha suerte. Good Luck!
    Julie Brend – English Friend.

  31. Does the “fight” for WFA continue? We have lived in South Africa for 11 years. Pensions were frozen in 2011. WFA was withdrawn and it costs money to chop firewood! Please see and support: “http://pensionjustice.org/information-centre/”

    • Once the Brexiteers get their silly way Tim, you will be able to enjoy a bit of schadenfreude at the expense of what will be your equivalents in the EU.

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