Approximately £4 million has been paid out for cold weather payments to the elderly and other vulnerable people already this month as the icy winter weather continues to grip the country.
In comparison, the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) didn’t pay anything out in this benefit in March last year.
People who are entitled to claim Pension Credit along with some other income benefits are eligible for the payments. The £25 payments are paid out automatically for every seven days of freezing temperatures.
Currently large areas of the country are still under snow with warnings of more snow and freezing temperatures to come.
The DWP is responsible for administering the cold weather payments. The £25 per each seven freezing days is to make sure that elderly people feel that they can afford to put their heating on when the weather turns bad.
Areas across Scotland, the North of England, Wales and Staffordshire have all had payments made in the past week.
The cold weather payments take 10 days to reach a person’s bank account once they have been triggered by the adverse weather. However, there is a cut-off date for the payments of March 31st, so if they bad weather carries on into April no more cold weather payments will be made.
There is some concern that not all eligible pensioners are receiving the cold weather payments. Approximately 1.5 million elderly people should be claiming Pension Credits due to their low incomes, but are unaware that they are entitled to this benefit. Because you need to be claiming Pension Credit to receive cold weather payments, there is concern that many vulnerable people are not turning their heating on due to financial worries.
This unusually cold winter has seen almost 3.3 million households receive benefit payments of £138.5 million so far. Whilst this is higher than the £129 million paid out last winter, it is much less than the £430 million paid in the 2010-2011 winter.
Steve Webb, the Pensions Minister, was keen to reassure pensioners that the cold weather payments would help them to efficiently heat their homes during this cold spell.
He said: “Cold weather payments of £25 provide real help when the weather bites. With more cold weather expected in the next week people should not have to worry about turning up the heating when temperatures plummet.”