As the nights (and days) grow colder and the cost of keeping your home comfortable increases, the Government's Winter Fuel Allowance can help pay for heating during the coldest months. With the help of information from the Department for Work and Pensions, we've put together a guide on who can claim the Winter Fuel Allowance and Cold Weather Payment, how to do so and how much you might receive, as well as other financial help that may be available during the winter.
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"I've just had my winter fuel allowance for the first time and it's taken so much pressure off me worrying about heating the house this winter."
The Winter Fuel Payment helps older people keep warm during the winter months as they get direct help with paying their heating bills. In 2017/18 Winter Fuel Payments benefited over 11.08 million older people in around 8.4 million UK households.
You can expect to receive between £100 and £300 per winter and the amount of payment you can receive depends on your personal circumstances. Things like whether you live with someone else or on your own, whether you/they are on benefits and how old the other person is makes a difference to how much you can receive. Find out from the Government how much you can get.
Payments automatically take place between November and December if you are signed up to receive Winter Fuel Allowance. If you haven't received it before you will need to make a claim as soon as possible.
98% per cent of people get their Winter Fuel Payment automatically because they are receiving another benefit. However, if you need to claim, it is really simple. Just call 0800 731 0160 with your National Insurance number and have your bank details to hand. Once you've claimed, you'll get Winter Fuel Payments automatically every year unless there is a change in your circumstances. It's easy to find out if you're eligible - just take a look at the website.
If you have previously received a Winter Fuel Allowance and your circumstances haven't changed you will automatically be paid this year. If your partner is currently receiving a Winter Fuel Payment, but you aren't, you will still need to make a claim. Also, it's worth checking if you're eligible to claim for Winter Fuel Payments for the winters you've missed.
You can make a claim by telephone, email or post. Find out more on how to claim here.
You will be paid directly into your bank account or by cheque depending on what you have requested.
If you're receiving benefits, you'll get this allowance in the same way as you usually receive your State Pension or benefit. There will be one payment for both of you, if you're a couple and are both eligible for any of the following:
If your partner gets any of the above benefits for you both, they will receive the full amount for both of you.
If you receive State Pension or certain other benefits you will be paid automatically and don't need to claim.
You don't need to claim if you're eligible and receiving at least one of the following:
This payment won't affect your other benefits and you won't have to pay Income Tax on it.
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You'll need to claim your allowance if the following apply:
You still need to claim even if your partner is already receiving a Winter Fuel Payment for your household.
If you've got the claim form all filled out correctly and have supplied all the documents you needed, you will get a letter to tell you you've applied successfully.
Otherwise, you will be contacted if you have not filled in the form correctly or additional information is needed. If you don't complete the form in full and supply all the required information you may not receive your payment before Christmas, although most payments will be received between November and December.
You will then receive another letter telling you how much you will receive and when this is likely to be paid.
Last year, more than £118 million was paid out last winter in Cold Weather payments. This credit is administered by the Department of Work and Pensions and is paid when the average temperatures in your area are recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below for seven consecutive days.
You'll receive this payment of £25 for each seven day period of cold weather automatically, if you already receive Pension Credit or another qualifying benefit and are eligible for a payment.
Cold Weather Payments do not affect any other benefits you may be receiving, and are paid into the same bank or building society account as the one used to pay in benefits. Those eligible will usually receive payments within 14 working days.
To check if you are eligible for a cold weather payment, enter your postcode into the Government’s Cold Weather Payments postcode checker.
In addition to Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments, the Warm Home Discount could provide a further £140 off your electricity bill – with over two million households currently benefitting each year.
The money isn't paid to you - it's a one-off discount on your electricity bill, usually between October and March. If you are eligible, you should have received a letter saying your account will be credited automatically or telling you how to apply. If you'd like more information, call 0345 603 9439 or visit the website.
Older people on lower incomes may also be entitled to Pension Credit and perhaps don't even realise it. This tops up your weekly income if it's below £159.35 for individuals and £243.25 for couples and can make a big difference to your standard of living if you're eligible. These amounts may be higher for people who are severely disabled, have caring responsibilities or have certain housing costs.
Overall, around 2 million pensioners claim Pension Credit and the DWP believe that over one million people are eligible for the benefit but don't claim it. Older people who have worked hard all their lives, and contributed to society and the economy over many decades deserve this additional support in their retirement.
It's simple to find out more about Pension Credit – just one free phone call to 0800 99 1234 can be all it takes to find out if you're eligible. You can also use this handy pension credit calculator to work out how much you might get.
Be savvy about what's available to you and make sure you stay warm this winter.