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30 June 2021

Cold Weather Payment, Winter Fuel Payment and Fuel Direct

Find out about government grants to make your home more energy efficient or help you pay your gas and electricity bill, including the Winter Fuel Payment, Cold Weather Payment, Affordable Warmth and Fuel Direct
Which?Editorial team
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It can pay to be in the know about the grants that can help you pay your gas and electricity bills, especially in the cold winter months. There are also schemes to help make your home more energy efficient and cosy. Find out whether you qualify.

Here, we list the different schemes and what you need to do if you think you qualify.

As well as getting extra help through these schemes, make sure you're not paying your energy supplier more than you need to. Use our independent switching service, Which? Switch, to check that you're on the cheapest gas and electricity tariff.

As well as the schemes below, it's worth checking if you qualify for the Warm Home Discount, a £140 annual credit paid to your energy account if you’re eligible.

Affordable Warmth and other energy-efficiency schemes

Under the Affordable Warmth Obligation, you might be able to get financial help for energy-saving home improvements. 

It's available in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Wales, a scheme called Nest (managed by British Gas) provides assistance to improve the energy efficiency of your home.

Energy grants offered under Affordable Warmth and similar schemes help with a wide range of energy efficiency measures, including loft insulation and cavity wall insulation. You could also qualify for a new boiler and heating controls, have your existing boiler repaired or even get a completely new central heating system. In Northern Ireland the scheme also covers window replacement.

An assessor will visit your home to determine what's needed. 

To qualify, you need to receive certain benefits and must either own your property or rent it privately. If you're renting, you need the owner's permission to do the work. 

If you live in social housing and your home has an energy efficiency rating of E, F or G, you may also be able to get help with insulation or installing a heating system for the first time.

If you're not sure what efficiency rating your home has, check its energy performance certificate. Alternatively, ask your landlord or housing association.

For more information on these schemes, and full eligibility criteria, contact the scheme operator in your part of the UK:

The Affordable Warmth Obligation is part of the Energy Company Obligation.

Energy Company Obligation

Subsidised energy efficient home improvements are available through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) if you qualify. These can include insulation or replacement boilers. Find out more in our ECO guide.

Cold Weather Payment

Cold Weather Payments are made to households that get qualifying benefits. They help pay for extra heating costs during periods of very cold weather.

To qualify for a Cold Weather Payment, the average temperature where you live must be recorded as, or forecast to be, 0°C or below for seven days in a row. If you're eligible, you will get £25 for each seven-day period between 1 November and 31 March. This should be paid into the same bank account that receives your benefits within 14 days after the cold spell.

The Gov.uk website has a tool that enables you to find out if your area is due to receive the Cold Weather Payment. If it is, you’ll be paid it automatically.

You do not need to apply for cold weather payments. However, you must tell Jobcentre Plus if you get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance and have a baby (or a child under five starts living with you) to ensure that you get your Cold Weather Payments.

Winter Fuel Payment

If you were born on or before 5 October 1954, you're likely to be able to get a Winter Fuel Payment to help you pay for gas or electric heating in winter. This annual tax-free lump sum is normally paid between November and December. 

If you’re over the age of 66 and live alone you get £200 (it's £100 if you live with someone else who also qualifies) and over-80s get £300.

You should be paid this automatically into your bank account if you get the State Pension or another such benefit. All payments should be made by 13 January 2021. If you haven't receive it by 31 March 2021, call the Winter Fuel Payment Centre (0800 731 0160).

Besides financial help towards your heating, follow our tips for keeping warm in cold weather.

Fuel Direct or third-party deductions

You can pay some of your bills, including fuel and water, directly from your benefits payments if you’re having difficulties keeping up with bills. These are sometimes called ‘third-party deductions’. The benefits you can use are Universal Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment Support Allowance, Income Support and Pension Credit.

Fuel Direct payments arrange for your current fuel use and an agreed amount of your unpaid bill to be paid to the company you owe each time your benefits are paid. The payments will stop once you've paid back what you owe.

The amount you’ll pay through deductions directly from your benefits depends on how much you’re paying off. For example, if you get Universal Credit, 5% of it would be deducted for gas, electricity and water.

The amount is decided by Jobcentre Plus or your pension centre. Get in touch with Jobcentre Plus to find out more.

Extra benefits

Depending on your personal and financial situation, you could be eligible for benefits to help you keep up with your bills and household expenses. Check if you qualify for financial help through the benefits system using the Gov.uk website.

Whether you're eligible or not for any of these schemes, you can still save money on energy by switching supplier. Use our independent switching website, Which? Switch, to find the cheapest gas and electricity deal.