We are deep into winter time now, with temperatures rapidly plunging. This is the most expensive time of the year when it comes to energy bills, but there is some help in place for those who may be concerned with meeting the cost.
What is the winter fuel payment?
The winter fuel payment is available to people who were born on or before 5th November 1953, to help cover the period between November and December each year.
It is worth between £100 and £300, depending on your situation.
In order to qualify, you’ll need to have been living in the UK for at least one day during the ‘qualifying week’ of 17th to 23rd September 2018. It is paid automatically to people who receive the state pension or another social security benefit.
When will I receive the winter fuel payment?
The money should be in your account by 14th January if you are eligible. If you don’t receive it automatically and need to make a claim for the winter fuel payment, you have until 31st March to get your claim in.
To claim, you can call the winter fuel payment helpline on 0800 731 0160. You’ll need to provide them with your bank details and national insurance number. You should only need to claim once - after that it should be paid each year automatically, assuming your circumstances don’t change.
Who doesn’t qualify?
You won’t be eligible to receive the winter fuel payment if any of the following apply:
- You have been in hospital receiving free treatment for over a year
- You need permission to enter the UK and your granted leave states you can’t claim public funds
- You were in prison for the whole of the qualifying week
- You lived in a care home between 25th June and 17th September and received pension credit, income support, jobseeker’s allowance, or income-related employment and support allowance.
Cold weather payments
The winter fuel payment isn’t the only help available for people during these extra cold months. For example, there are also cold weather payments.
These are payments available to people on certain benefits, such as pension credit or income support, so long as the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below for seven straight days.
The payments are worth £25 and you can get them for each seven day period of particularly cold weather between the beginning of November and the end of March.
Warm home discount scheme
The warm home discount scheme offers eligible people £140 off their energy bill for the winter. The money isn’t paid to you - it’s a one-off discount on your electricity bill, running between September and March.
People can qualify for the warm home discount scheme in two different ways. The ‘core group’ are people who receive the guarantee credit element of pension credit, while it is also availabe to people who are on a low income and meet their energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme. Obviously, this will vary between suppliers, so it’s worth checking your own supplier’s terms and conditions for the scheme.
Find a better energy deal
If you don’t qualify for any of the help on offer with energy bills during the winter, it’s even more important that you shop around to secure the most competitive energy deal possible.
According to the energy regulator Ofgem, as many as 11 million households are currently sat on their supplier’s standard tariffs. These are the deals you move onto once a fixed tariff comes to an end, and are the most expensive deals around. By moving to a new deal, you can drastically cut your typical bill.
Ofgem data shows that while a typical household with average energy use would pay around £1,221 if they are on a standard tariff, that drops to just £921 a year on the cheapest fixed tariffs.
You can find a cheap deal through a price comparison site, or even sign up an automatic switching service like WeFlip or Flipper, which will move you between deals as and when they spot savings.