New benefit to help pay winter fuel bills

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Winter heating assistance for low-income people will support 400,000 households.

A guaranteed annual winter heating benefit of £50 will be paid for the first time in February 2023 to around 400,000 low-income households.

Winter heating support for people on low incomes will be the Scottish Government’s 13th benefit and will replace cold weather payments from the UK Government. The UK government benefit is unreliable for low-income households as it only triggers a £25 payment when a ‘cold snap’ requirement is met and temperatures drop below zero degrees Celsius for seven consecutive days at a certain location.

Instead, the Scottish Government will invest £20m a year in Low Income Winter Heating Aid, which will provide a reliable payment each winter to help pay energy bills.

Winter heating assistance schemes for people on low incomes have been well received by people with experience of the benefit system. 90 percent of Social Security Experience Panel members approved of the plan to remove the “cold snap” requirement and provide reliable payment instead.

Social Security Minister Ben Macpherson said:

“Our new low-income winter heating assistance benefit will provide a reliable payment each winter to around 400,000 eligible households, including pensioners and people with disabilities. This additional financial support from the Scottish Government will help at a time of rising energy bills and other cost of living pressures.

“Unlike current cold weather payments, winter heating assistance for low-income people will provide support to people regardless of the weather conditions or temperature levels where they live. This will be our thirteenth decentralized perk and will only be available in Scotland. It will also be an automatic payment to everyone who is eligible, so there is no need to apply.

“Our annual investment of £20m will represent a significant increase in support for around 400,000 households – up from just 325,000 and 11,000 payments made by the UK government in cold weather payments in Scotland over winter 21. -22.

“Making payments in February for the first year of low income winter heating aid will ensure a smooth transition from the UK scheme. We will explore the possibility of bringing the payment date earlier in winter in future years .

“This winter we will also be extending and increasing our Scottish Child Payment in November, as well as Child Winter Heating Assistance Payments for the third time. Both of these benefits are not available elsewhere in the UK.

Background

The Social Security Experience Panel sheds light on key decisions in the design of Social Security in Scotland and members were interviewed between February and March 2022 about winter heating support for people on low incomes.

The analysis of the consultation on winter heating support for people on low incomes and the Scottish Government’s response have also been published.

The current UK government’s cold weather payments only trigger a £25 payment when temperatures are recorded or forecast below zero degrees Celsius for seven consecutive days. The low-income winter heating aid will provide financial stability through an automatic payment of £50, whatever the weather.

Winter heating assistance for low-income people is the 13e benefit which will be introduced by the Scottish Government. A “qualifying week” has been set for November, with the money being paid out to all eligible households in February 2023.

A person may be eligible for winter heating support for low income people if they are in receipt of a pension credit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, universal credit and mortgage interest support. As with current Cold Weather Payments, additional qualification criteria for some of these benefits may also need to be met, such as disability premiums paid to the client or whether a disabled child is in their household.

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