Get help with heating costs this winter

Written by
Helen West

Keeping your home warm is one of the best things you can do to look after your health during the cold winter months.

Low temperatures mean you could be at an increased risk of illness, including heart attacks and stroke, flu, and pneumonia.

You're most at risk if you're are 65 or older, have a long-term health condition such as heart disease, or have a disability.

It's recommended that you heat your home to at least 18C. Heating costs quickly add up - but you may be able to claim financial or practical help. Here are some of the payments you may be entitled to.

Winter Fuel Payment

The Winter Fuel Payment is a tax-free benefit. It's not means tested and is available to anyone who was born on or before the 5th November 1953 (this date changes every year) and normally lives in Great Britain.

Most people who are eligible will get it automatically, but you may need to claim it if you don't receive any benefits or a state pension. To claim, call the Winter Fuel Payment Centre on 0800 731 0160.

A woman reads a book in front of a roaring fire

The Winter Fuel Payment has caused some controversy. It's a universal benefit, which means it is awarded even to those who have healthy incomes.

You'll need to know your National Insurance number, your bank or building society details, and the date you were married (if applicable). You can find alternative ways to claim, including a postal address, on the Winter Fuel Payment website.

The amount you receive depends on your circumstances, including your age. For 2018/2019, you could get up to £200 if you're aged up to 79. If you're 80 or over, you could receive up to £300.

Cold Weather Payment

Cold Weather Payments are based on your benefits and the temperature in your area. If you're eligible for a Cold Weather Payment, it will be paid automatically. 

You may be able to get the payment if you're receiving pension credit, income support, jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance, universal credit, or a support for mortgage interest (SMI) loan.

This payment is made during periods of very cold weather. It's paid if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celcius or below for 7 consecutive days.

This year, the scheme runs from the 1st November 2018 to the 31st March 2019. You'll get £25 for each 7 day period of very cold weather. 

Energy Company Obligation (ECO)

The Energy Company Obligation is a government scheme that was set up to help those on low incomes keep their homes warm. Under the scheme, the largest domestic energy suppliers must fund certain improvements to the homes of some consumers.

The Big Six energy firms all provide ECO support. These firms are British Gas, EDF Energy, Scottish Power, E.ON, Npower, and SSE. Some smaller firms also participate in the scheme.

The Big Six energy suppliers

The Energy Company Obligation Scheme helps those on a low incomes pay for energy-saving improvements to their homes, like boiler repairs and insulation. Image: The Independent.

If you claim certain benefits and live in private housing, or if you live in social housing, you might be able to get help for energy-saving improvements to your home.

These can include insulation improvements like cavity wall or loft insulation and boiler replacements or repairs. You can find more information on the Each Home Counts website.

Warm Home Discount scheme

This is a one-off discount on your electricity bill between September and March.

There are two ways to quality. You're eligible for the Warm Home Discount if you receive the Guaranteed Credit element of pension credit. If you fall into this group, you should receive a letter by the 7th December 2018 telling you how you can get the discount.

You may also be eligible if you're on a low income. In this case, your energy supplier decides who gets the discount. To find out if you qualify, you should contact your energy supplier as soon as possible.

Lots of energy suppliers are part of the scheme, including many of the smaller suppliers.

To find out more about the financial help and benefits available to help you keep warm and well this winter, this leaflet contains lots of information for the over 60s, low-income families, and people living with a disability. 

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