The cost of keeping your home warm in winter can soon mount up, especially when the temperature drops. So, to help those 62 or over cope with the cost of heating their home, the government introduced Winter Fuel Payments.
These are simple one off payments of up to £300 made at the start of each winter.
Do you qualify for winter fuel payments?
If you are over the age of 61 then there is a good chance that you will qualify for a winter fuel payment in the winter of 2015-2016.
Exactly how much you get will depend on your circumstances:
If you were over 80 years old in the qualifying week (usually in the September before each winter) and live alone, or are the only person living in your property who qualifies for the Winter Fuel Payment, you should be eligible for the full £300.
If you were born on or before 6th January, 1953 but are aged under 80, then you should qualify for a payment of £200.
If you live with someone else who qualifies for the payment the amount you get will be split between the two of you. For example if you are both over 80 years old you will receive £150 each.
The UK government is reviewing whether to continue offering the Winter Fuel Payment to eligible persons living in warmer EEA countries. Legislation is expected to be introduced from 2015/16 subject to parliamentary approval.
There are a couple of exceptions: if you are living in a care home or independent hospital and are already receiving other benefits such as Pension Credit, Jobseekers Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance you won't qualify for the Winter Fuel payment.
However, if you are living in a care home or independent hospital but do not receive any of the benefits listed above then you will be entitled to half the standard payment - so £100, or £150 if you are over 80.
For more information on eligibility visit the Gov.UK website.
How do you claim?
If you were paid the Winter Fuel Payment last year and your circumstances have not changed since then, you should automatically be paid again this year without needing to submit a claim.
If you think that you are eligible for a winter fuel payment and didn't recieve it last winter, then you can claim by completing a form on the Gov.UK website and sending it to the specified address.
The Direct Gov website states that "Any money you get won't affect your other benefits" so there is no need to worry about any benefit or tax implications.
All claims for winter 2014/15 had to be made before the 31st March 2015 deadline.
Who is eligible for a Cold Weather Payment?
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 or have one of the following:
Disabled child premium
Child Tax Credit (that includes a disability element)
A child under 5 years old
How much do I get for a Cold Weather Payment?
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.
What if I'm eligible and haven't received anything?
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.