What is the Winter Fuel Payment?

It’s going to get seriously cold very soon – at precisely the same time as the recent energy company price hikes come into effect.

So as bills rise and temperatures fall, it’s going to become more of a struggle of some people to keep their homes warm. The colder months can be particularly tough on older people, so it’s worth checking your entitlement to the Winter Fuel Payment.

Help with heating bills

You could get between £100 and £300 towards your heating bills if you were born on or before 5 January 1952, as long as you normally live in the UK throughout qualifying week, which for winter 2013-2014 was the week of 16 to 22 September 2013.

The actual amount depends on your circumstances during qualifying week, For example, if you were living alone during qualifying week, you would get £200, or £300 if you were aged over 80. But if you were living with someone over 80 who also qualified for the payment, you would receive £100.

Living in a care home

Some people do not qualify for the payment. For example, during qualifying week if you were in prison, in hospital getting free treatment for more than 52 weeks or living in a care home for the previous 12 weeks or more and receiving certain benefits, you would not be eligible for help with your heating bills this winter.

Money for Christmas

You should get a letter telling you how much you will get, and the likely payment date. The money is usually paid into your bank or building society account between November and December, but should be with you by Christmas.

The Winter Fuel Payment is tax free and does not affect your entitlement to other state benefits.

Claim form

People who receive the State Pension or another social security benefit such as Jobseeker’s Allowance or Incapacity Benefit, should receive the Winter Fuel Payment automatically. Housing benefit, child benefit and council tax reduction are not classed as social security benefits. So, if you meet the age criteria but receive only housing benefit, you will have to apply for the Winter Fuel Payment.

You can download a claim form from the website www.gov.uk or call the helpline on 08459 15 15 15. Claims must be sent to the Winter Fuel Payment Centre, Department for Work and Pensions, PO Box 22, Gateshead, NE92 1BX by 31 March 2014.

Outside the UK

You might be entitled to the payment if you live in Switzerland or a country in the European Economic Area, such as France or Spain. You will have to make a claim if you live outside the UK; the forms are again available from the government website.

Past winters

You can make a claim for past winters 1997-1998, 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 if you are eligible. However, you can’t make a past claim for winters 2000-2001 onwards.

Change in circumstances

Don’t forget to inform the Winter Fuel Payment centre if your circumstances change as it could affect your entitlement to the money. You can also contact the office if you want to appeal a decision on eligibility.

* Up to 10% can save at least £244.64, MoneySupermarket data based on sales. June 2013

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