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Disabled People (Heating Costs)

Volume 453: debated on Monday 27 November 2006

9. What provision is made for the extra cost on fuel and heating incurred by seriously disabled people under the age of 60 years during winter. (102904)

Disability living allowance, together with the disability premiums in the income-related benefits and the disability-related additions in tax credits, already contribute towards the extra costs faced by seriously disabled people. Recipients are free to spend those payments according to their own priorities.

I wish to raise the case of Matthew Pinder, who is 21, seriously disabled and lives in my constituency. His mother often has to keep the heating on for 20 hours a day, which is very costly. Indeed, to pay for that, she has been forced to borrow from relatives. May I ask the Minister why, when it is recognised that those over 60 are especially vulnerable to the cold, it is not recognised that those under 60 with serious disabilities face the same daily struggle and, therefore, should receive the same benefits?

I do not want to go into specific details, because it is difficult to assess cases across the Floor of the House at Question Time. However, disability living allowance and the disability premiums that I mentioned do take into account the additional costs and impact of disability on an individual. They take close cognisance of an individual’s circumstances. The most severely disabled people receive an additional £7,000 a year in recognition of the extra costs they face. Some 60 per cent. of those who receive the DLA and/or attendance allowance are aged over 60 and automatically receive a winter fuel payment. The DLA is regulated out over a 52-week period to take account of those costs that occur regularly for disabled people, whereas the winter fuel allowance is an annual payment at a particular time of year to assist with the pressure of fuel costs in the winter. The two examples are not parallel.