Updated on 31 October 2013.
With the winter nights drawing in and temperatures dropping, many of us will be turning up our heating to help keep warm.
But as frugal as so many of us try to be with our heating, gas and electricity bills can still mount up and will be more of a drain on your household finances during the coldest months of the year.
Fortunately there's help at hand for those who are aged 60 and over or are on a low-income - though the payout you'll get is dependent on a combination of different circumstances.
We explain how to claim Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments to help towards the cost of heating your home.
A Winter Fuel Payment can be anything between £100 and £300.
If you are aged over 60 and are getting a State Pension or another benefit (though this doesn't include Council Tax benefit, Housing Benefit, or Child Benefit), your Winter Fuel Payment should automatically be paid to you along with your pension or benefit. You'll also be eligible for a payment if your partner is getting Pension Credit or Income Support, and has already received a Winter Fuel Payment.
If you're aged over 60 but don't receive State Pension or another benefit, you'll find how to claim your Winter Fuel Payment using these instructions. To support your claim you can use these notes. You can also pick up this form at your local Post Office or JobCentre Plus.
The amount of help you'll get towards your heating costs from the Winter Fuel Payment varies depending on your circumstances.
A Cold Weather Payment is designed to help those on a low-income cope with the cost of heating their home at times when it's particularly cold in the area they live.
You'll be eligible for a Cold Weather Payment if you receive Income Support or have a pensioner premium, disability premium, disabled child premium, Child Tax Credit (that includes a disability element) or if you have a child under 5 years old.
If you're eligible for a Cold Weather Payment, you'll receive £25 for every week that the average temperature in your local area drops to 0 degrees C or lower for 7 days in a row, between 1st November and 31st March. There's no need to apply for the payment - you should receive it directly into your bank account for every week that the temperature drops below zero for 7 consecutive days.
If you think you are eligible for either the Winter Fuel Payment or Cold Weather Payment but haven't received anything, it's worth contacting JobCentre Plus and explaining your situation, as they may be able to back-date payments for you as well as make sure you are getting either the relevant help from now on.
It's also worth visiting Direct.gov if you'd like to find out more about the winter fuel payments.
Written by Sally at money.co.uk
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