Published: 17/04/2003, Volume II3, No. 5851 Page 8

Groups campaigning for elderly people are claiming victory in the Budget following the announcement that older people will only have their income cut if they are in hospital for longer than 52 weeks.

Under the current rules, deductions are made from pensions and benefits for hospital stays of six weeks or more. This was to be replaced by a limit of 13 weeks from October this year.

But following a campaign by Age Concern England, the limit has been extended to 52 weeks.

The change will cost the Treasury£30m in 2003-04 and a further£15m in 2004-05 and in 2005-06.

Gordon Lishman, the charity's director general, said that it was 'a huge relief for tens of thousands of older people who would otherwise suffer reductions in their pensions and benefits when they are at their most vulnerable'.

Both Age Concern England and Help the Aged welcomed the announcement of an extra£100 on top of the£200 winter fuel payment to each household with a pensioner aged 80 or over. But Help the Aged's Head of Public Affairs, Mervyn Kohler, commented that it is 'a very modest improvement that fell some way short of what is required'.