The Conservative election manifesto pledge will offer protection from the cost of social care for people with assets of £100,000 or less, a dramatic increase from the current £23,250 level in England.
But to help pay for it, the winter fuel payment will be means-tested and targeted at the the poorest pensioners who are most at risk of fuel poverty instead of being a universal benefit paid to all.
The Tories have yet to reveal where the threshold will be drawn and the proposals could provoke a backlash if they affect people on modest incomes as well as the very rich.
The plans are set out in a manifesto called Forward, Together, which the Prime Minister described as a “declaration of intent” to tackle the “great challenges of our time”.
The money saved by means-testing the winter fuel payment will go directly to fund health and social care.
Caring for the UK’s ageing society is one of those challenges and the measures set out in the manifesto are aimed at getting more money into the system.
There will be a third more people aged 85-plus in 2024 than there were in 2014, and the growth of long-term conditions such as dementia has been putting increasing pressure on the social care system which can subsequently have knock-on effects on the NHS by putting strain on hospitals.
Winter fuel payments were introduced 20 years ago amid fears that some pensioners were literally freezing to death because they were so scared they would be able to afford soaring energy costs.
Labour has vowed to keep the payments for all if it wins on June 8 while the Lib Dems would stop them for pensioners who pay 40 per cent tax.
Labour’s campaign chief Andrew Gwynne said: “Theresa May pretends otherwise, but she is a politician with a track record of failure and broken promises.
“From the economy to the NHS, and policing to schools, Theresa May’s Tories have failed again and again to deliver on the pledges they made.”