Around 400,000 low-income households in Scotland will receive £50 annually from next February to help them afford their winter fuel bills.
Under the Cold Weather Payment scheme, eligible households are paid £25 for every seven-day period between 1 November and 31 March in which temperatures are recorded or forecast at below zero degrees Celsius. However, during the winter of 2021-22, the UK government only paid out £325,000 in 11,000 Cold Weather Payments to residents of Scotland.
Under the new system, Scotland will pay a total of £200 million to 400,000 households annually each February, regardless of the temperature.
Households will be eligible for the £50 Low Income Winter Heating Assistance Payment if they receive:
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
- Income support
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit
- Support for Mortgage Interest
As with Cold Weather Payments, recipients of some of those benefits will need to meet additional qualifying criteria, for example having a disabled child in the house or receiving disability premiums.
If you’re a resident of Scotland and receiving those benefits during the qualifying week in November, you’ll automatically receive the first Low Income Winter Heating Assistance Payment in February 2023. However, Holyrood hasn’t yet announced the exact dates of the qualifying week this year.
Social Security Minister Ben Macpherson said: “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.”
Edinburgh noted that 90% of the members of its Social Security Experience Panel—made up of people with direct, personal experience of benefits—approved of the plan to remove the cold spell requirement and make the payment consistent each year.
This year, the Scottish Government will also offer its Child Winter Heating Assistance payments for the third time. This support is offered annually from late November to the families of disabled children and young people under 19. For the winter of 2022-23, it’s set at £214.10 per eligible child.
Meanwhile, households across the UK will receive additional relief on their energy bills this winter to counteract the sharp rise in gas and electricity prices. 28 million households in Scotland, England, and Wales will see a £400 discount on their October energy bills. Additionally, eight million households on means-tested benefits will see one-off payments of £650. Eight million pensioner households will receive £300, while six million people receiving non-mean-tested disability benefits will receive £150.
As in England and Wales, Scottish households will also receive a £150 payment or discount on their council tax bill if they’re in bands A or D or in other bands and already qualifying for reduced rates.