How to

31 October 2016

A Guide to Winter Fuel Allowance in the UK

Fuel costs are increasing nowadays, meaning a lot of people are finding it more difficult to keep their homes warm. According to the NHS, in 2013, there were 2.35 million homes in fuel poverty in England: meaning the inhabitants of 2.35 million households were both living below the poverty line and had higher than average energy bills. Cold homes often lead to health problems, especially if you’re over 65 or have low income, a disability or a long-term health condition such as heart, lung or kidney disease. 

The Winter Fuel Allowance is a Government scheme administered by the Department for Work and Pensions, under which the government will contribute towards a certain portion of your fuel bill during winter: between £100 and £300, depending upon your age and circumstances. Its primary goal is to help people aged over 65 keep their homes warm during winter.

Various names for the Scheme

The scheme goes by many names, being variously called ‘Winter Fuel Allowance’, ‘Winter Fuel Payment’ and ‘Heating Allowance’. Caution should be taken not to confuse it with ‘Cold Weather Payment’ (a separate scheme wherein the government will begin to partly subsidise your fuel costs when the temperature drops below zero) or ‘Warm Home Discount’ (a different scheme which affects electricity bills).

Who is eligible to claim it?

If you get the State Pension or another social security benefit (excluding Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction, Child Benefit or Universal Credit), you’re likely to receive the Winter Fuel Allowance automatically, paid into your bank account at some point in November or December.

If you don’t get it automatically, but feel you are eligible for it, you can make a claim. In order to be eligible for the Winter Fuel Allowance this winter (2016/17), the following conditions must apply to you:

Bear in mind: the State Pension age is not the same for everyone, but rather depends upon your gender and date of birth. (You can work out your state pension age using the State Pension Age calculator here)

It can be somewhat misleading to read a sentence like this: ‘eligibility for the Winter Fuel Allowance scheme is dependent upon your age and circumstances.’ Essentially, such phrasing may imply certain things which don’t actually apply. For example, the Winter Fuel Allowance Scheme is non-taxable (that’s to say, you won’t pay tax on it). Furthermore, it won’t count as income when you’re working out your entitlement to other benefits. Finally, Winter Fuel Allowance is what’s called a ‘non-means tested’ benefit: i.e. the amount you receive is not dependent upon your income and savings.

The table below can be found on the Government website. It outlines who can qualify and how much they will receive. You may note, in relation to the table:

  • The scheme is based around households rather than individuals. So, if, for example, there are two of you living in the same household who are both eligible for the scheme, only one of you will receive a payment.  
  • If you are aged 80 or over, you are eligible to receive more money than if you are aged 79 and under. However, as the table states, you must have been 80 or older ‘in the qualifying week’ in order for this to relate to you. The qualifying week this year was 19 to 25 September 2016. However, you should also be aware that the exact wording changes elsewhere on the Government website, to say ‘throughout the qualifying week.’ So, if you are now 80 years old, but your birthday was, for example, on 23 September (during the qualifying week), you won’t be eligible for the extra money, and will have to settle for the smaller of the two available pay-outs.  To clarify this point, you may call the Winter Fuel Payment Helpline on 0345 915 1515.

The official Government-issued table is below:

How do you claim?

In order to claim, apply for, or make further inquiries into the Winter Fuel Allowance, you can call the Winter Fuel Payment Helpline on 0345 915 1515, or visit the relevant section of the Government website here.

James Stannard

James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London.