New winter heating benefit will give 400,000 households £50 to help pay energy bills every year

By Linda Howard

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation for a new heating benefit that would give around 400,000 low-income households a guaranteed £50 payment every winter towards their energy bills.

The Low Income Winter Heating Assistance will be introduced from winter 2022 to replace the current UK Government Cold Weather Payment scheme.

The current benefit, delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) triggers a £25 payment only when temperatures are recorded or forecast at below zero degrees Celsius for seven days in a row. The replacement Low Income Winter Heating Assistance benefit from the Scottish Government would provide a £50 payment, “no matter the weather”.

Social Security Minister Ben Macpherson said: “Low Income Winter Heating Assistance will be an investment of around £20 million every year to reliably support people towards the costs of heating their homes irrespective of the weather, temperature, or where they live in Scotland.

“Although Cold Weather Payments have been a valuable support for some during periods of very cold weather, there have been some years when hardly any payments have been made at all by the UK Government.

“If winters, as predicted, are due to become generally wetter and warmer then this may also reduce the numbers of Cold Weather Payments in the future. We want people to have certainty about receiving a payment.”

He explained that the proposed new benefit will be the equivalent to two payments of Cold Weather Payment and should ensure that most people will be better off.

“Significantly, it will also enable us to provide assistance to more households that are at risk of fuel poverty,” he added.

He continued: “This is another important milestone in our ambitious programme, using the devolved social security powers we have to deliver more effective benefits for the people of Scotland, and is also part of our broader approach to support people who need extra help with heating costs during the coldest months of the year.”

Last year there were 854,000 payments made to Cold Weather Payment recipients in Scotland totalling more than £21 million.

On top of Cold Weather Payments, those receiving Pension Credit are also eligible for Winter Fuel Payments, an automatic payment of between £100 and £300 to help people pay for heating bills - find out more about Winter Fuel Payments on the GOV.UK website here.

Vulnerable households across Scotland will also benefit from the Scottish Government’s £41m share of the UK Government’s £500m Household Support Fund, aimed at providing crucial support for essentials over the coming months as the country continues its recovery from the pandemic.

The new fund is part of a wider package of support the UK Government is providing this winter and includes 2.2 million low-income households being given a £140 rebate on energy bills through the Warm Home Discount - find out more about this here.

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