Could you get help heating your home?
COLD WEATHER PAYMENT
If you’re retired or on a low income, then you could be eligible for a cash payment to help you cope with the cost of heating your home during the cold spell.
The cold weather payment is available to people on certain benefits during periods of cold weather. If eligible, you’ll receive £25 per week if the temperature falls (or is forecast to fall) to below zero Celsius for seven consecutive days between 1 November to 31 March.
Are you eligible?
You may be eligible for a cold weather payment if you are getting pension credit and income-related employment and support allowance, with a support or work-related activity component in the main phase.
You may also be eligible for this payment if you are getting income support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related employment and support allowance in the assessment phase and have one of the following:
• A pensioner premium, higher pensioner premium or enhanced pensioner premium
• A disability premium, enhanced disability premium or severe disability premium
• A disabled child premium
• Child tax credit that includes a disability or severe disability element
• A child who is under five in the family
You can check your postcode on the DirectGov website - this will indicate if the weather in your area will trigger a cold weather payment.
Receiving the cold weather payments will not affect other benefits you may be getting.
How can I claim the money?
There is no need to make a claim for the cold weather payment as this is automatic as long as you qualify.
If you think you should have received a payment but you have not had one, then contact your pension centre or Jobcentre Plus. However, bear in mind that payments may take 12 days.
WINTER FUEL PAYMENT
People aged over the age of 60 may also be eligible for a winter fuel payment of between £125 and £400, which can help pay for keeping your home warm.
In order to be eligible for the 2009/10 winter fuel payment you must:
• Be aged 60 or over, on or before 27 September 2009
• Have lived in Great Britain or Northern Ireland on any day between 21–27 September 2009 (or, in some circumstances, in another EEA country or Switzerland)
However, you won’t qualify if during the week of 21–27 September 2009 you were:
• in hospital for more than 52 weeks previously, getting free treatment as an inpatient
• in custody serving a court sentence
• subject to immigration control and did not qualify for help from the Department for Work and Pensions
• living in a care home, an independent hospital or Ilford Park Polish Resettlement Home (and had done so for the previous 12 weeks or more) and you were on pension credit, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or income-related employment and support allowance.
You can call the winter fuel payment helpline on 0845 915 1515 (or 0845 601 5613 for text phone) for more information. Lines are open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30pm.
Payments are automatic.
Whether a household is in fuel poverty or not is determined by three main factors:
* The energy efficiency status of the property
* The cost of energy
* Household income
However, generally speaking, any household that spends more than 10% of its income on fuel to “maintain a satisfactory heating regime” is considered to be in fuel poverty. The government defines this as 21 degrees for the main living area, and 18 degrees for other occupied rooms.
The government has spent £20 billion on measures to cut fuel poverty since 2000, and aims to end the problem altogether by 2016.
1. Warm Front & Home Energy Efficiency Scheme in Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland
The Warm Front and Home Energy Efficiency Scheme, which is funded by Defra, is the government's main mechanism for tackling fuel poverty. Individuals can apply for a Warm Front grant of £2,700 or £4,000 (if oil central heating has been recommended) in order to improve insulation in their home.
The scheme is managed by Eaga – you can check your eligibility on the Eaga website or by contacting it on 0800 316 6011.
Households who might be eligible include those aged over 60 or with children under 16 and receiving benefits such as: income support; housing benefit; council tax benefit; pension credit; and Jobseeker’s allowance.
In addition, households receiving one or more of the following benefits may also qualify:
• Working Tax credit (with an income of less than £15,460, including a disability element)
• Disability living allowance
• Child tax credit (with an income of less than £15,460)
• Housing benefit (must include a disability premium)
• Income support (must include a disability premium)
• Council tax benefit (must include a disability premium)
• War disablement pension (must include a mobility supplement or constant attendance allowance)
• Industrial injuries disablement benefit (which must include constant attendance allowance)
• Attendance allowance
2. Home Heat Helpline
The Home Heat Helpline (0800 33 66 99) is funded by energy suppliers and aims to reduce the number of households living in fuel poverty. It provides support to people who are struggling to pay their energy bills or who want to find out how they can save on energy.
It also aims to “encourage vulnerable customers to speak with their energy suppliers either directly or through third parties”.
Calls to the Home Heat Helpline are free, and the line is manned by expert advisors who can give information on grants, benefits and payment schemes. They can also put your call through to the specialist team at your energy supplier.
3. Energy Saving Trust
Energy Saving Trust offers free, impartial and expert advice about how you can make your home more energy efficient. They can also offer advice on any grants and offers that may be available to help towards the costs of installing measures.
You can contact your local Energy Saving Trust advice centre for free on 0800 512 012 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.
4. Your energy supplier
Last year, the UK’s six biggest energy companies pledged to help reduce fuel poverty by offering up to 100,000 households assistance paying their energy bills.
Every energy supplier also offers a priority register of its elderly, disabled or vulnerable customers, as well as grants for home insulation and reduced or ‘social’ tariffs.
Some suppliers also have trust funds available to pay off fuel debt and to support local community projects, according to the Home Heat Helpline.
Child tax credit
A scheme started in 2003 that sought to replace a raft of other tax credits and benefits, the payout depends on the number of dependant children in a family, and its level of income. The amount of credit is reduced as income increases. It is payable to the main carer of a child, usually the mother, and is available whether or not the recipient is working.