The Government's winter fuel payments do little to increase the amount spent by the over 60s on heating their homes, research has suggested.
Many elderly people spend at least some of the one-off cash payments on other things, according to Ian Walker, Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick.
Prof Walker's Cold Comfort? report drew on previous figures gathered by the Office for National Statistics' Expenditure and Food Survey which monitors the spending habits of some 7,000 households.
He found that households using pre-payment meters felt the financial impact of very cold weather most keenly.
But the data showed that the winter fuel payments did not make the elderly any more likely to keep their homes warmer.
Separate research previously published in the British Medical Journal undermined the theory that warmer homes reduced mortality rates among the elderly, Prof Walker said.
"WFP is just money. The attempt to fool people into spending more money on fuel basically isn't working," he said.
The Government's Warm Front scheme to tackle fuel poverty was named as one possible reason why cold temperatures apparently do not kill people in their homes.
Reducing pensioners' fuel bills before they receive them could be one way of redistributing the Winter Fuel Payments, the research suggests.
The Department for Work and Pensions said every household with a resident aged 60 and above received a £200 winter fuel payment, rising to £300 for households with a resident aged 80 or above.
"Winter fuel payments are significant, well-timed payments which give pensioners reassurance that they can afford to heat their homes during the coldest period of the year," a DWP spokesman said.
"We believe the current system strikes the right balance in making a payment to help with heating costs."