New benefit to help with winter fuel bills

Monika Reichelt

A guaranteed annual winter heating benefit of £50 will be paid for the first time in February 2023 to around 400,000 low income households.

Low Income Winter Heating Assistance will be the Scottish Government’s 13th benefit and replaces the UK Government’s Cold Weather Payments. The UK Government benefit is unreliable for households on low incomes as it only triggers a £25 payment when a ‘cold spell’ requirement is met and temperatures fall below zero degrees Celsius for seven days in a row in a certain place.

Instead, the Scottish Government will invest an annual £20 million in Low Income Winter Heating Assistance, which will provide a reliable payment every winter to help with energy bills.

Plans for Low Income Winter Heating Assistance have been welcomed by people with experience of the benefits system. 90 per cent of members of the Social Security Experience Panel agreed with the plan to remove the ‘cold spell’ requirement, and provide a reliable payment instead.

Social Security Minister Ben Macpherson said:

“Our new Low Income Winter Heating Assistance benefit will provide a reliable payment every winter to around 400,000 eligible households, including pensioners  and disabled people. This extra financial support from the Scottish Government will help at this time of rising energy bills and other cost of living pressures.

“Unlike the current Cold Weather Payments, Low Income Winter Heating Assistance will provide support to people irrespective of weather conditions or temperature levels where they live. It will be our thirteenth devolved benefit and will only be available in Scotland. It will also be an automatic payment to all those who are eligible, so there is no need to apply.

“Our £20 million annual investment will be a significant increase in support to around 400,000 households – compared with only £325,000 and 11,000 payments made by the UK Government in Cold Weather Payments in Scotland in winter 21-22.

“Making payments in February for the first year of Low Income Winter Heating Assistance will ensure a smooth transition from the UK scheme. We will explore the feasibility of bringing forward the payment date to earlier in winter in future years.

“This winter we will also be extending and increasing our Scottish Child Payment in November, as well as making Child Winter Heating Assistance payments for the third time. Both of these benefits are not available elsewhere in the UK.”