What is the Winter Fuel Allowance scheme?

Winter Fuel Allowance scheme

You might have heard about the Winter Fuel Payment scheme, but do you actually know what it entails and whether you’re eligible? Considering it offers a one-off payment of £100 to £300 to help you deal with heating costs in the winter, it may be worth finding out whether you meet the heating allowance age and, if so, how you file a claim and how much money you could get to contribute towards your bills. Find out everything you need to know about the Winter Fuel Payment with our comprehensive guide. 

What is a Winter Fuel Payment? 

The Winter Fuel Payment is a tax-free, annual government heating allowance to help you pay for your heating costs during the winter. It was developed for households with someone over the Pension Credit age (65+), and payments are usually made automatically during November and December. However, if you’re applying for the first time, you should receive your first payment before Christmas. 

Am I eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment? 

In order to qualify for the Winter Fuel Payment, you must meet both of the following conditions (specifically for the 2019 allowance): 

  • You were born on or before 5 April 1954

  • You lived in the UK for at least one day during the week of 16-22 September 2019

However, if you did not live in the UK for the qualifying week but you do meet the heating allowance age, you may still be able to get the payment if the two following conditions are met: 

  • You live in Switzerland or a country in the European Economic Area (EEA)

  • You have a genuine link to the UK, such as having family in the UK or having lived or worked in the UK in the past

There are a couple of exceptions, however. If you live in Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal or Spain, you will not be able to get the Winter Fuel Allowance. This is for the simple reason that the average temperature during winter in these countries is so much higher than it is in the UK. 

Who does not qualify for the Winter Fuel Allowance? 

In addition to the eligibility criteria mentioned in the previous section, there are a couple of disqualifying conditions for the Winter Fuel Payment. These include the following: 

  • If you’ve been in hospital for more than one year, receiving free treatment

  • If you were in prison for the whole qualifying week

  • If you need permission to enter the UK and you are not able to receive public funds

  • If you lived in a care home for the entirety of 24 June to 22 September 2019, and received Income Support, Pension Credit, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

How much can I get with the Winter Fuel Allowance? 

The amount of money you can receive from the Winter Fuel Payment varies from year-to-year, so it’s important to check the official website for up-to-date figures. It’s also important to consider that the amount you’re able to get depends on your circumstances during the qualifying week, your age, and any benefits that you may already be on. 

For those born between 23 September 1939 and 5 April 1954 (under 80), you’ll receive the following amounts, depending on your living circumstances: 

  • You qualify and live alone (or the people you live with don’t qualify) – £200

  • You qualify and live with someone under 80 who is also eligible – £100

  • You qualify and live with someone 80 or over who is also eligible – £100

  • You qualify, live in a care home and do not get certain benefits – £100

For those born on or before 22 September 1939 (over 80), you’ll receive the following amounts, depending on your living circumstances:

  • You qualify and live alone (or the people you live with don’t qualify) – £300

  • You qualify and live with someone under 80 who is also eligible – £200

  • You qualify and live with someone 80 or over who is also eligible – £150

  • You qualify, live in a care home and do not get certain benefits – £150

As mentioned earlier, the amount of money you get from the Winter Fuel Allowance may be affected if you already receive certain benefits, namely, the Pension Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and Income Support. 

How do I claim for Winter Fuel Allowance? 

Most of the time, you don’t actually need to make a claim for a Winter Fuel Payment, because you will get it automatically if you are eligible. However, if you have never had it before and the following conditions apply, you will need to make a claim: 

  • You do not get a State Pension or benefits

  • You get a State Pension or benefits, but you live in Switzerland/an EEA country

  • You only get Council Tax Reduction, Housing Benefit, Universal Credit, or Child Benefit

  • You have deferred your State Pension

To make a claim, you can simply get in touch with the Winter Fuel Payment Centre by phone or post. If you’re making a claim by phone, be sure to know your National Insurance number, your bank/building society details, the date you were married or entered into a civil partnership, and your BIC/IBAN numbers (if you’re based in Switzerland or an EEA country).

  • By phone

If you’re based in the UK, you can get in touch on 0800 731 0160. If you’re based outside the UK, you can get in touch on +44 (0)191 218 7777.

  • By post

If you’re claiming by post, you’ll need to print and fill out a claim form, before sending it to the Winter Fuel Payment Centre in Wolverhampton. There are different claim forms depending on whether you’re based in the UK or you’re based in an EEA country or Switzerland, so make sure you’ve printed out the right form. 

How can I challenge a Winter Fuel Payment decision? 

If a decision has been made on your Winter Fuel Allowance claim that you do not agree with, you may be able to challenge the decision. This is referred to as “mandatory reconsideration,” and means that the Winter Fuel Payment Centre will be obligated to review your claim once again. If you disagree with their reconsidered decision, you can appeal to an independent tribunal. However, you should be aware that there are strict time limits when it comes to claims disputes. Usually, you’ll only be given one month to dispute a decision. 

How can I cancel payments or report changed circumstances? 

Of course, it may be necessary for you to report a change of circumstances at some point, for instance, if you go into care, you stop getting a certain benefit, or you move in with somebody who is also eligible for the Winter Fuel Allowance. You may also need to return a payment or cancel future payments.

To do this, you should get in touch with the Pension Service (if you get Pension Credit or a State Pension), the Disability Service Centre (if you get PIP, DLA, or Attendance Allowance), or the Carer’s Allowance Unit (if you get Carer’s Allowance). If you do not receive any of these benefits, you should get in touch with the Winter Fuel Payment Centre. 

Is there any other government heating allowance I can claim for? 

If you’re not eligible for Winter Fuel Payment, there are a broad range of government heating allowance schemes that you may be able to claim for:

  • Cold Weather Payment – If you already receive certain benefits, such as a Pension Credit, you may be able to get additional money when there is very cold weather. You can get £25 a week for each seven-day period of bad weather (0°C or below for 7 days in a row), but it’s important to remember that this only applies between 1 November and 31 March. 

  • Warm Home Discount scheme – If you receive the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit or you’re on a low income, you may qualify for the Warm Home Discount scheme, which entitles you to a one-off payment of £140 for your electricity bill between September and March. 

  • National Concessionary Fuel Scheme – If you are an ex-employee of the National Coal Board (NCB) or British Coal Corporation (BCC), or the widow/widower of an ex-employee (providing they qualified for the scheme), you may be entitled to free solid fuel or a fuel cash allowance.

Bjorn GriffithDec 9th 2019