SNP MSP for the South of Scotland Dr Aileen McLeod is backing calls for the UK Government to pay winter fuel payments for off-grid pensioners earlier than currently happens.
Dr McLeod says many pensioners across Dumfries and Galloway are disadvantaged at present because such a significant number of rural households in the region are off the gas grid and rely on tankered fuels for their heating requirements.
For off-grid customers tank gas and oil generally increases in price through the winter but, because of the timing of winter fuel payments, they are unable to take advantage of lower prices earlier in the year.
Changing the timing of payments would enable more fuel to be bought for the same price in preparation for winter, thereby offering recipients of winter fuel payments and the taxpayer better value for money.
Dr McLeod commented: “The SNP has long argued that bringing forward the payment of winter fuel allowance to eligible pensioners who are off the gas grid would allow them to make purchases of fuel before the winter sets in and prices normally rise substantially.
“Many pensioners in Dumfries and Galloway who have off-grid oil and gas heating systems are disadvantaged at present by a payments system that was designed to work best for on-grid pensioner households. What is being proposed is simply common sense and not enough effort is being put in to make it work.
“The whole purpose of the payment is to ensure that funds are available when the winter fuel bill arrives, which the present system does very well for those who pay their bills quarterly. Unfortunately those off the gas grid, such as those with tanked oil and gas heating systems, will generally find prices more expensive at that time and may have had considerable difficulty in getting or paying for supplies over the winter months.
“Not only that but if pensioners in these circumstances find they can only order heating oil and gas during the winter, then there can be significant weather difficulties delaying or preventing delivery of fuel to their homes.”