At Prime Minister's questions yesterday David Cameron advised he would consider adding to the winter fuel allowance letters a suggestion for those who don't need it to donate to charities providing support for those most in need.
Liberal Democrat MP for Wells, Tessa Munt, asked the Prime Minister if he would make it his policy to endorse the Somerset Community Foundation's 2011 Surviving Winter appeal, which calls for people who receive the Winter Fuel Payment but do not need it, to donate some or all of it to support elderly residents struggling to meet the cost of winter. Launched last year in Somerset, the appeal made over £55,000 in November and December and has since been turned into a national appeal led by Community Foundations.
Responding to Munt's call for support, Cameron said: "The winter fuel payment provides valuable help to millions of people with paying their fuel bills. Individuals are of course free to donate their payment to a charity if they wish, but it must be a decision for them."
However when pressed by Munt on whether the government would consider including in the letter sent out advising of winter fuel allowances the option to allow an automatic donation to the Surviving Winter appeal, the Prime Minister said he would "certainly look at that suggestion". He added, however, that he would "not want to see any unnecessary pressure put on people to do something that might not be in their own best interests".
The 2011/12 appeal has been publicly backed by Terry Wogan, David Jason, Ann Widecombe and Michael Eavis.
Eavis said: "Last year, I was the first person to sign up to the scheme and I was delighted to learn that a large number of people followed suit. I could see immediately the sense and logic behind people who are reasonably well off like myself, giving their winter payment to more needy folk in Somerset.
"I gather that it was an astounding success and the campaign is now running across the whole country, but because things are getting much worse economically, there will be even greater need this winter. Therefore I hope that even more people will join me in giving their Winter Fuel Allowance to the Somerset Community Foundation."