Understanding winter fuel payments

As winter sets in and temperatures plunge, many of us are worried about our rising energy bills. But the government’s winter fuel payment could help ease the pain for millions of pensioners.

If you’re a pensioner worried about rising energy bills as the weather gets colder, then help is at hand, as you may be eligible for a government payment worth up to £600 that is paid during the winter.

Winter fuel payments were introduced by the Labour government in 1997 to help older people meet the costs of heating their homes in winter. The lump sum payment is usually paid automatically in November or December. 

We look at who is eligible, how much it’s worth and what to do if you don’t receive it.

What is the winter fuel payment?

The winter fuel payment is an annual tax-free payment for pensioners designed to help you cover your heating costs in the colder months. How much you receive will depend on your age and personal circumstances.

As part of the government’s cost of living crisis assistance there is an extra payment this year called the “pension cost of living payment”. This is being paid over the winter alongside the winter fuel payment and any other cost of living benefits you are eligible for.

Who is eligible for the winter fuel payment?

Most people born before 26 September 1956 are eligible for the winter fuel payment. However, there are a few exceptions.

First, you need to have been living in the UK for at least one day of the qualifying week (the third week of September, for 2022 this was 19-25 September). If you live in the European Economic Area or Switzerland, you may still be able to get the winter fuel payment if you can prove a genuine link to the UK, such as living or working in the UK or have family still living in the UK.

Second, you won’t get the winter fuel payment if you have been in hospital for more than a year, or were in prison for the entire qualifying week. 

How much is the winter fuel payment?

How much winter fuel payment you get depends on when you were born, and what your personal circumstances were during the qualifying week.

If you are the only person in your household who is eligible for the winter fuel payment, you’ll receive:

  • £500 if you were born between 26 September 1942 and 25 September 1956
  • £600 if you were born before 26 September 1942

If you live with someone who is also eligible for the winter fuel payment, then how much you get is affected by other benefits you may claim. 

This includes: pension credit; income-based jobseekers allowance; income-related employment and support allowance; or income support.

If you and your partner jointly claim any of the benefits above, then one of you will get a winter fuel payment amounting to:

  • £500 if both of you were born between 26 September 1942 and 25 September 1956
  • £600 if one or both of you were born before 26 September 1942

If either you or your partner receive any of the benefits mentioned above, but not as a joint claim, you’ll get:

  • £500 if you were born between 26 September 1942 and 25 September 1956
  • £600 if you were born before 26 September 1942

If neither of you claim pension credit, income-based jobseekers allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or income support then your winter fuel payment will be:

  • £250 if you and the person you live with were born between 26 September 1942 and 25 September 1956
  • £350 if you were born before 26 September 1942 but your partner was born between 26 September 1942 and 25 September 1956
  • £300 if you and the person you live with were born before 26 September 1942

If you live in a care home and don’t claim benefits you will receive:

  • £250 if you were born between 26 September 1942 and 25 September 1956
  • £300 if you were born before 26 September 1942

If you live in a care home and do get benefits you’re not entitled to a winter fuel payment.

However much you get, your winter fuel payment won’t affect any other benefits you receive.

If you’re eligible for the payment, you will receive a letter in October or November telling you how much you get.

Do I need to claim the winter fuel payment?

In most cases the winter fuel payment will be given to you automatically if you are entitled to it. Basically, if the Department for Work and Pensions is aware of you (because you claim one of the following benefits and/or the state pension) you’ll receive the payment automatically:

  • State pension
  • Pension credit
  • Attendance allowance
  • Personal independent payment (PIP)
  • Carers allowance
  • Disability living allowance (DLA)
  • Income support
  • Income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA)
  • Award from the War Pensions Scheme
  • Industrial injuries disablement benefit
  • Incapacity benefit
  • Industrial death benefit

If you don’t get one of those benefits, you’ll need to claim the winter fuel payment if you haven’t had it before.

How do I claim the winter fuel payment?

If you don’t automatically receive the winter fuel payment, and you are eligible for it, you’ll need to make a claim. You can do this by calling 0800 731 0160, by filling out the online form or by post. 

The address is:

Winter Fuel Payment Centre
Mail Handling Site A
Wolverhampton
WV98 1LR

Be aware that there is a deadline every winter for claiming your winter fuel payment. For winter 2022-2023, this is 31 March 2023.

What to do if you don’t receive the winter fuel payment

The winter fuel payment should be paid into your bank account. It will appear on your bank statement with the reference DWP WFP. 

If you haven’t received it by 13 January 2023, call the Winter Fuel Payment Centre on 0800 731 0160. You'll need your National Insurance number and your bank or building society details to hand.

What other energy bill help is available this winter?

Energy bills are going to be much higher this year than in previous winters due to the cost of living crisis. While the government’s Energy Price Guarantee will keep a lid on price rises to a certain extent, the average household is still forking out £2,500 a year for their gas and electricity, based on typical use. This amount will rise to £3,000 in April 2023.

The government has announced a package of measures to help. This included a £650 payment for anyone on means-tested benefits, which includes pension credit.

You should have received this money in two payments with the second of £324 paid in November. However, 850,000 eligible people haven’t claimed this money. If you are 66 or older with a total income of under £182.60 a week for a single person or £278.70 a week for couples you could be eligible for pension credit, and also the £650 payment. You can check if you are eligible and apply by calling the Pension Credit claim line on 0800 991 234.

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