Sometimes you may face a hard choice in winter – whether to keep the heating down and shiver or turn it up and overspend your budget.
That’s why the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) provides a special cold weather payment, to help certain qualifying households manage when the temperature falls below zero for seven days in a row.
The 2015 winter fuel allowance is designed to help low-income families, particularly the elderly or those with young or disabled children, who could not otherwise afford the level of heating they need to keep warm during a freezing cold snap.
You’ll almost certainly qualify for DWP cold weather payments if you get Pension Credit.
However, that doesn’t mean there’s a special cold weather payment age. These aren’t just winter fuel allowances for pensioners. You could also qualify for a cold weather payment entitlement if you get any of the benefit combinations marked ‘yes’ in this table:
You’ll get a £25 cold winter payment for each week of freezing weather between 1 November and 31 March. That means seven days in a row when the temperature is recorded as, or forecast to be, an average of zero degrees Celsius or lower.
Each time there is an extremely cold week, you should get a payment within 14 working days.
From 1 November onwards each winter, you can find out by checking the government’s online cold weather payment postcode search. That will tell you which areas have had, or are forecast to have, temperatures of zero degrees or lower for more than seven days in a row.
You don’t need to claim your payments. If you’re eligible, you’ll get them automatically.
However, if you’re on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related ESA, and you’ve had a baby, or a child under 5 has come to live with you, you may now be eligible. So you’ll need to tell your Pension Centre or JobCentre Plus office to make sure you get your 2015 winter fuel allowance.
You also need to tell them if you go into hospital, as this could affect your payments.
They’ll be paid straight into the same bank or building society account as your benefit payments.
If you’re sure you qualify for cold weather payments and it’s recently been very cold in your area, first check the government’s online cold weather payment postcode search (available from 1 November onwards each winter). That will tell you whether it really was colder than zero degrees for seven days in a row.
Then tell your Pension Centre or JobCentre Plus and they will help you find out what’s gone wrong.
There are a range of other schemes and grants that could help you afford to heat your home.
If you’re old enough to get a state pension, you could get the winter fuel payment (also known as the winter fuel allowance), a tax-free heating allowance. It’s a yearly one-off payment of between £100 and £200 that isn’t linked to temperature, and if you’re on a state pension you’ll get it automatically. If you’re over 80 you’ll get a higher payment, but if you haven’t yet reached pensionable age, you won’t qualify for this payment.
As with cold weather payments, you don’t need to apply; if you’ve reached the relevant age, you’ll receive it automatically. It will be paid into the same bank or building society account as your state pension.
This is a government initiative that provides rebates on energy bills – it was £140 for winter 2014/15. You get it as a one-off discount on your energy bill or as a voucher if you have a pre-payment meter. It’s usually paid sometime between October and March. To qualify, your energy supplier needs to have signed up to the scheme, and you should be getting the guarantee credit element of pension credit.
If you’re getting the warm home discount, you’ll get a letter telling you so, and the money will be deducted automatically from your energy bill.
The Green Deal could be right for you if you think your property could benefit from energy-saving improvements.
If so, you might be able to claim some of the cost back from the government. You can apply for up to £1,250 towards the cost of installing any two of these:
The best way to use less energy and reduce your bills is to make sure your home and all your electrical appliances are working as efficiently as possible.
If you insulate your roof and walls, improve your heating system and are generally quite careful, you can save around £300 a year. You’ll also cut your home’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by around 1.5 tonnes – so you’re helping the planet, too.
Here are our top ten ways to become more energy efficient:
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