How to keep warm in winter: what are the effects of benefits designed to protect elderly households from the coldest winters?

Date: 04 November 2011
Contacts: Tim Beatty , Laura Blow , Cormac O'Dea and Thomas Crossley
IFS researchers have investigated the effect on fuel spending of the receipt of the Winter Fuel Payment, a cash benefit paid to all households containing someone aged greater than the female state pension age. The research shows that the ‘label’ of the benefit has an impact on what it is spent on - households receiving the Winter Fuel Payment are almost 14 times as likely to spend the money on fuel than would have been the case had their incomes been increased in other ways. The research also showed that during very cold spells the poorest pensioners cut back on spending on food to finance the additional cost of heating their homes. This research was presented to academic audiences in the UK and abroad, was quoted widely in the print media and was discussed by the authors on national radio and television. The authors have also held a number of discussions with civil servants and representatives of third sector organisations to discuss the implications of this research for future policy.