House of Commons Library

Winter Fuel Payments update

Published Monday, June 26, 2017

The Winter Fuel Payment is a tax-free annual payment to help older people meet the cost of their winter fuel bills. The “standard” rates are £200 per eligible household where the oldest person is under 80, and £300 for households containing a person aged 80 or over.

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The Winter Fuel Payment is a tax-free annual payment to help older people pay their winter heating bills.

Most payments are made automatically between November and December. Individuals usually get a Winter Fuel Payment automatically if they get the State Pension or certain other benefits. The “standard” rates are £200 per eligible household where the oldest person is under 80, and £300 for households containing a person aged 80 or over. 

To be eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment, a person must have reached the relevant age threshold before the end of the “qualifying week” (for this year, 18 to 24 September 2017). The relevant age is linked to the State Pension age for women, which is increasing gradually.  This means that, to receive a payment this winter (2017/2018), a person must have been born on or before 5 August 1953. 

The Winter Fuel Payment can be paid in other EEA Member States. However, a “temperature link” introduced in 2015 means it is no longer payable to people living in Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal or Spain.

Further information on the rules, details of the payment arrangements for this winter and claim forms are available at the GOV.UK website.

The cost to the Exchequer is approximately £2 billion a year (HL Deb 28 April 2016 c1236). Some have argued that the Winter Fuel Payment and other “universal benefits” for older people can no longer be justified, in light of the deficit and benefit cuts facing non-retired households – see Commons Library briefing 06354, Pensioner benefits.

In its manifesto for the 2017 election, the Conservative Party said it would means-test the Winter Fuel Payment. However, the 26 June agreement between the Conservative and Democratic Unionist Parties said that both parties had agreed that there would be no change to “the universal nature of the Winter Fuel Payment.”

Background to the scheme can be found in Commons Library briefing SN/SP/599, Winter Fuel Payments, which covers the introduction of Winter Fuel Payments and changes up to 2005.

The Winter Fuel Payments scheme is entirely separate from the Cold Weather Payments scheme, under which recipients of certain benefits receive automatic payments of £25 a week during periods of very cold weather – see Commons Library briefing 07454, Cold Weather Payments for winter 2015/2016, for further details.

Commons Library briefing 06163, Help with energy bills, gives information on other sources of financial and practical help with domestic energy bills, and also outlines current policy developments.

 

Commons Briefing papers SN06019

Authors: Steven Kennedy; Djuna Thurley

Topics: Benefits administration, Benefits policy, Energy, Fuel poverty, Older people, Pensions

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