What is a winter fuel payment & am I entitled to one?

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Summary: Many of us await the winter weather with a feeling of dread. Sure, all the snow, ice and frost look pretty. But for many of us (especially those of a certain age), extremely cold weather can exacerbate a range of health issues – not to mention sending our heating bills sky high. But if you’re of pensionable age, you may find that you’re entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment from the government.

Apply for Winter Fuel Payment

This one-off payment may help mitigate the cost of your heating. So you don’t have to choose between being cold, and being broke. A Winter Fuel Payment can be a tremendous help to those who need it. But not everyone knows how to apply, whether they need to apply, or even if they’re entitled to one. Here we’ll look at everything you need to know about Winter Fuel Payments. We’ll show you how to check your entitlement. We’ll even demystify the application process for you. So you can get the support you need to keep your home warm and cosy in the punishingly cold winter months…

Winter Fuel Payments explained

The cost of heating our homes is rising. Indeed, the cost of energy has tripled over the past 20 years. When the winter months roll around, many of us find that we have to spend a lot more on heating our homes. While those with a robust, fixed income may be able to shrug off this extra cost, those who are less financially secure may find it more of a struggle to heat their homes in winter. For those who are retired, the cost of heating the home in winter can put a serious dent in their carefully planned budget.

As such, the government offers a one-off, tax-free Winter Fuel Payment (also known as a Winter Fuel Allowance) to retirees who are less financially secure. This is intended to reduce the cost of heating their homes.

The benefit is not a fixed sum. The amount you receive each winter is based on a number of circumstances including your age, who else shares your home, and whether or not you live with someone who is also eligible.

It is available to households in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Am I entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment?

The Winter Fuel Payment from the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) is designed to help British citizens of pensionable age to better cope with the cost of heating their homes.

As such, with some exceptions (which we’ll get to shortly), anyone of retirement age is eligible for a payment. There are only two criteria:

  • That you were born on or before October 1954 (of course the date will change to 1955 next year).
  • That you will be resident in the UK for at least one day of the week of 21 to 27 September 2020. This is known as the “qualifying week”.

Who is ineligible for a Winter Fuel Payment?

Boiler SettingsAlthough Winter Fuel Payment eligibility applies, in principle, to anyone of retirement age, there are some specific circumstances that disqualify applicants from receiving a payment. As such, even if you are aged 65 or over, you will not qualify for a Winter Fuel payment if any of the following apply to you:

  • You are in hospital, and have been getting free treatment for more than a year.
  • You need permission to enter the UK and as part of your granted stay, you are not able to claim public funds.
  • You were in prison for the entirety of the week from 21 to 27 September 2020.
  • You lived in a care home for the period of 29 June to 27 September 2020 inclusive and received either Income Support, Pension Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

Can I still get help if I’m not eligible?

Even if you’re not eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment, you may still be eligible for different forms of government support such as a Cold Weather Payment or The Warm Home Discount Scheme.

How are Winter Fuel Payments different to the alternatives?

It’s important to note that, although they sound very similar, the Winter Fuel Payment is not the same as a Cold Weather Payment. Both are intended for different purposes, and they have different criteria for application. Some who are ineligible for a Winter Fuel Payment may qualify for a Cold Weather Payment, and there will be some who are eligible for both.

Cold Weather Payments Explained

Boiler InstallationCold Weather Payments are designed to help people who are financially vulnerable if the area they live in is affected by extreme cold. Recipients get £25 for each 7 day period where the temperature in their area is zero degrees celsius or less between 1st November and 31st March.

Unlike a Winter Fuel Payment, a Cold Weather Payment is not limited to those of pensionable age. You are eligible for Cold Weather Payment if the temperature in your area meets the above criteria and you are in receipt of the following benefits:

  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support for Mortgage Interest

Broadly speaking, if you have a child under 5, a child with a disability, a disability or pensioner premium, or a Child Tax Credit with a disability element, you are likely to receive a Cold Weather Payment.

After each period of cold weather, payment is made within 14 days. Payment is usually made into the same bank account as your other benefits. You don’t even need to claim for this benefit. It is paid automatically by the DWP.

The Cold Weather Payment scheme for this year begins on 1st November 2020.

Warm Home Discount Scheme Explained

The Warm Home Discount Scheme is an alternative to a Winter Fuel Payment that you may also be eligible for.

This scheme could entitle you to a flat £140 off your electricity bill for the winter of 2020 to 2021. Unlike a Winter Fuel Payment, however, these funds are not deposited into your bank account. Instead, they are paid directly to your energy supplier.

Even if you are not eligible for a Cold Weather Payment and / or a Winter Fuel Payment, you may still be eligible for this benefit. There are two ways in which you may qualify for this scheme.

Either:

  • You are in the “core group” that gets the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit

Or

  • You are on a low income and meet your energy supplier’s criteria for the “broader group” that qualifies for the scheme.

You can also qualify for this scheme if you use a prepaid or Pay As You Go meter. Because your energy supplier deals with the administration of this scheme you need to apply directly through them. You must also remain with your energy supplier until after the payment has been made.

Click Here to see a list of energy suppliers that participate in this scheme. You should check with your supplier as early as possible if you think you meet their criteria for this scheme. Suppliers can only give a limited amount of discounts, and if you miss out you will not be able to apply again until next year.

The 2020 to 2021 scheme opens on 12 October 2020, and the discount will be applied to your energy bill by March 2021.

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How much of a Winter Fuel Payment am I entitled to?

How much of a Winter Fuel payment you can get will depend on your circumstances during the qualifying week, your age and the circumstances of others you share your home with. The benefit can range from £100-£300 and, as previously stated, how much you receive will have no impact at all on any other benefits you can claim.

The table below explains how your circumstances will affect your payment…

Your Circumstances Born between 21 September 1940 and 5 October 1954 Born on or before 20 September 1940
You qualify & live alone (or with nobody else who qualifies) £200 £300
You qualify & live with someone who also qualifies under 80 y/o £100 £200
You qualify & live with someone 80 or over who qualifies £100 £150
You qualify & live in a care home but do not get benefits above £100 £150

How some benefits affect your Winter Fuel Payment

Some benefits that you, or someone you live with, receive may also affect your entitlement to a Winter Fuel Payment and how much you get. If you or your partner or spouse receive any of the following benefits, your payment may be different:

  • Pension Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Your Circumstances Born between 21 September 1940 and 5 October 1954 Born on or before 20 September 1940
You qualify & receive benefits above but live alone (or with nobody who qualifies) £200 £300
You qualify & live with someone who also receives the above benefits £200 (but only one of you receives payment) £300 (but only one of you receives payment)
You qualify & live in a care home and receive one or more of the benefits Not eligible Not eligible

Applying for a Winter Fuel Payment

There are many who find applying for benefits stressful and tedious. Those people can breathe a sigh of relief. Most of the people who are eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment don’t actually need to fill in any sort of application in paper or online.

In most cases, the people who are eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment will get it automatically. However, there are some exceptions to this.

You will need to make an application if any of the following apply to you:

  • You do not currently receive a State Pension or other benefits.
  • You only get Universal Credit, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction or Child Benefit
  • You receive a State Pension or other benefits but currently live in Switzerland or an EEA country.

You can find out more about claiming a Winter Fuel Payment from abroad in our FAQ section.

If you meet the criteria above and need to apply for a Winter Fuel Payment, this can be done over the phone or by post.

Telephone applications

To make an application over the phone, these are the numbers you need to know:

  • 0800 731 0160 if calling within the UK.
  • +44 (0)191 218 7777 if calling from overseas.
  • Textphone users in the UK should dial 0800 731 0464
  • Textphone users overseas should dial +44 (0)191 218 7280
  • If you cannot hear or speak on the phone, their Relay UK number is 18001 followed by 0800 731 0160.

All of the above lines are open 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday.

Postal applications

To make a postal application, you will need to submit a Winter Fuel Payment Claim Form. This can be downloaded here or here if you live in an eligible overseas country.

Applications should be submitted to:

Winter Fuel Payment Centre
Mail Handling Site A
Wolverhampton
WV98 1LR

What you’ll need to know

While the application form is fairly straightforward, there is some information that you will need to have close to hand, including:

  • Your National Insurance number
  • Bank / building society details
  • BIC and IBAN numbers if you live in the EEA or Switzerland
  • The date you were married or entered into a civil partnership (where applicable)
  • Whether you were in hospital, care or custody during the qualifying week.

When and how will I get my Winter Fuel Payment?

Payment is made directly into the bank account into which your pension or other benefits are paid. Please note that payments cannot be made into a National Savings and Investments (NS&I) account unless this is also the account into which your other benefits or pension are paid.

Payments are usually made between November and December. Most applicants receive their Winter Fuel Payment in time for Christmas.

Heat your home for Christmas

Challenging a Winter Fuel Payment decision

If you disagree with a Winter Fuel Payment decision, you have one month to dispute it. This is called a Mandatory Reconsideration. You can apply for this by clicking here.

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Notice

Winter Fuel Payment FAQ

We appreciate that there are some aspects of Winter Fuel Payments that may still be unclear. In this next section, we will try to answer some Frequently Asked Questions in order to further clarify this benefit and your potential eligibility…

💰 Does a Winter Fuel Payment affect my entitlement to any other benefits?

No. While a Winter Fuel Payment is technically a benefit, it is not counted as income by the DWP. As such, applying for and being granted a Winter Fuel Payment will not affect your entitlement to any other benefits.

❓ Is my Winter Fuel Payment means-tested?

No. The payment you receive will not be means-tested. You don’t even have to have paid National Insurance contributions to be eligible for a payment.

🗓️ Do I need to apply for a new Winter Fuel Payment every year?

No. Once you have made an application, you will not need to make one in subsequent years. You will receive your payment automatically, as long as your circumstances remain unchanged.

If you do not receive a Winter Fuel Payment that is due, you should contact the local office that pays your benefits.

🏠 Can I get a Winter Fuel Payment if I live in a care home?

While the majority of applicants for Winter Fuel Payments live independently, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get a Winter Fuel Payment if you live in a care home. You may be entitled to a reduced payment unless you meet the ineligibility criteria stated earlier. To clarify, you cannot qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment if you live in a care home and are already in receipt of any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

🌍 I live within the European Economic Area. Can I still qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment?

Possibly, yes. The government also makes Winter Fuel Payments available to some residents of the EEA and Switzerland if you can demonstrate that you have a genuine link to the UK. Examples of such a link may include having lived or worked in the UK, or spending a lot of time with family in the UK.

Please note, however, that there are some countries within the EEA whose winter temperatures exceed those of even the warmest regions in the UK. Residents of the following countries are not eligible to apply:

  • Spain
  • Greece
  • France
  • Cyprus
  • Malta
  • Portugal
  • Gibraltar

Need help making sense of Winter Fuel Payments?

We appreciate that, while we’ve done our best to clarify the Winter Fuel Payment entitlement and (where necessary) how to make a claim, you may still have some questions. You may even need a helping hand in setting up your claim. We’re here to offer complete end-to-end support with all aspects of energy consumption.

Redactor

Written by eleanor

Updated on 8 Oct, 2020