What are Cold Weather Payments and am I eligible for them?

What are Cold Weather Payments?

When paying for heating is a struggle during chilly winter weather, the Cold Weather Payment is meant to help. The government offers this assistance to eligible households in very cold weather. Here’s a closer look at what this payment entails, as well as how to find out if you’re eligible. 

For those who are eligible, the Cold Weather Payment works out to £25 per week for each qualifying seven-day period of freezing temperatures. After each qualifying period, you should receive your payment within 14 working days. This will be deposited into the same bank or building society account used for any other benefit payments. 

‘Cold weather’ in this instance is defined as temperature averages of zero degrees Celsius or below. These temperatures must be consistently low for seven consecutive days. The term is defined by the Met Office, which uses its weather stations to record temperatures.

This cold weather allowance is available between 1 November and 31 March each year, covering the winter months when households might struggle with high heating costs. It’s important to note that this is just one grant available during this time frame. Cold Weather Payments are unrelated to Winter Fuel Discounts, so you may be eligible for both. This assistance doesn’t affect other benefits you might receive. 

Am I eligible?

So, how do you know if you’re eligible for the Cold Weather Payment? To begin with, the temperatures where you live must fall below zero degrees for seven consecutive days, as outlined above. 

An easy way to find out if you’re eligible is to visit the Government’s Cold Weather Payment website. Generally, grants are available for those who receive any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support

  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Universal Credit

  • Pension Credit

  • Support for Mortgage Interest

In some cases, not everyone who receives these payments will automatically be eligible. While most individuals receiving Pension Credit will also receive the cold weather allowance, there are additional criteria for other categories. 

For example, if you get Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, you’ll usually also receive Cold Weather Payments if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You have a disabled child

  • You have a child under the age of five living with you

  • You receive Child Tax Credit including a disability element

  • You receive a disability or pensioner premium

Do you receive income-related Employment and Support Allowance? You’ll most likely be eligible for Cold Weather Payments if you are also in a work-related support or activity group. Otherwise, you will probably receive them if you also have any of the same circumstances outlined above for Income Support and Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The Universal Credit Cold Weather Payment is available for anyone who receives Universal Credit and isn’t employed or self-employed. To qualify, you will also have to meet one of the following conditions:

  • You have a health condition or disability with limited capability for work

  • You have a child under the age of five living with you

You might also be eligible for the Universal Credit Cold Weather Payment if you have a disabled child amount in the claim, regardless of your employment status. 

How to apply 

There’s no need to apply for your payments. If you’re eligible through other benefits, you’ll already be in the system. Those who qualify will be paid automatically within 14 days after a qualifying period of cold weather. This year’s scheme begins on 1 November 2019. 

Contact your pension centre or Jobcentre Plus office if you think you should have received a heating allowance for disabled customers or Cold Weather Payment, but it hasn’t reached your bank account. If you receive Universal Credit, ring the helpline on 0800 328 9344 for assistance. You can also sign into your account to add a note to your online journal. 

Changes in circumstances

Although in most cases you will receive your Cold Weather Payments without any need to contact anyone, there are a few circumstances where you might need to chase up on them.

Have you recently had a new addition to the family? You should contact Jobcentre Plus if you receive Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance and:

  • You’ve had a baby

  • A child under the age of five comes to live with you

This is because Cold Weather Payments will not be automatically applied unless Jobcentre Plus is notified of your change in circumstances.

Another situation where you may need to contact your pension centre, Universal Credit helpline or Jobcentre Plus office is if you go into hospital during the qualifying period. This could impact your payments, so be sure to keep the relevant benefits centre informed. 

Additional programs and discounts

There are additional benefits that you might be eligible for during the winter months. 

  • Winter Fuel Payment

In contrast to the Cold Weather Payment, the Winter Fuel discount is not related to temperature. It’s a yearly, one-off payment designed to offset the cost of fuel during the winter months. You can expect to receive a tax-free cash payment, usually between £100 and £300, to help pay for a rise in heating costs. To qualify for this payment, you’ll need to be born on or before 5 April 1954 and have lived in the UK for at least one day during the week of 16 to 22 September 2019 or have a genuine link to the UK.

Additional eligibility criteria may apply, so it’s always a good idea to check the latest government website. 

  • Warm Home Discount

This government programme is similar to the Winter Fuel Discount in that it provides rebates on energy bills for qualifying households. Last year’s payment amount was a single £140 discount for all eligible homes. Unlike the Cold Weather and Winter Fuel payments, the Warm Home Discount is offered in the form of a discount on your energy bills rather than cash. This rebate can offset the cost of electricity alone, or electricity and gas if handled by the same supplier. 

So who’s eligible for the Warm Home Discount? You’ll automatically be eligible if you receive the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit. Otherwise, you’ll need to visit your energy supplier’s website to apply. Funds are typically allocated to low-income households and those with small children. 

There are also energy efficiency grants available to those who upgrade their home’s insulation. This helps make the home more efficient in the long term, reducing your energy bills throughout the year. 

Energy-saving tips for the winter months

As you can see, there are a number of government schemes like the cold weather allowance to help provide a heating allowance for disabled and vulnerable individuals. Yet whether or not you qualify for these payments, there are additional ways to save money on your heating bills over the winter. Here are a few tips to help you boost efficiency at home, slashing energy bills in the process. 

  • Insulate your home – The easiest way to cut your energy bills is to insulate your home. This enables your interiors to retain more heat, so you don’t have to put the radiators on full blast all day. Start off small by purchasing draught-proofing materials to seal off any cracks around doors and windows. Draw the curtains at night and fit extra curtains to cover single-glazed doors. A chimney balloon can keep draughts from travelling down into your living space. 

  • Check your loft space – As you’re insulating your home, don’t forget about your loft and roof space. It’s estimated that approximately 25% of an uninsulated home’s heat escapes through the roof, so be sure to pad this space with insulating materials. At the same time, fill cavity walls to lock in warmth. 

  • Keep your radiators free – Do you dry your clothes on the radiators? This blocks them from warming up the room properly. Similarly, keep them free from furniture and additional clutter so that the heat has a chance to permeate the room in less time. 

  • Give radiators a boost – Aside from keeping radiators free to do their job, you can give them a boost with reflector panels and air-circulating booster devices. 

  • Submit regular meter readings – If you’re using estimated readings, this can result in higher energy bills. Keep your bills more accurate by submitting regular readings to your energy supplier. 

  • Switch energy suppliers – Another sure-fire way to save up to £477 a year on your energy bills is to switch to a different supplier. The process only takes moments and you could find a deal that’s suitable for your location and level of energy use. 

Ben GallizziEnergy Expert - Nov 11th 2019