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Cold Weather Payments are made from the Social Fund to certain recipients of Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit or Pension Credit during periods of very cold weather. To “trigger” the payments, the average temperature at a specified weather station must be recorded as, or forecast to be, 0°C or below for seven consecutive days. The scheme runs from 1 November to 31 March each year.

The payment is a fixed amount for each week of cold weather. For many years this was set at £8.50 a week but the Labour Government increased the rate to £25 a week as a temporary measure for winters 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. In 2010, the Coalition Government made the £25 rate permanent.

Payments are made automatically to those entitled to them; there should be no need to make a claim. People who think they may be entitled but do not receive a payment should contact Jobcentre Plus, the Universal Credit helpline, or a pension centre.

In the four winters preceding the 2017-18 winter (2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016‑17), relatively mild weather meant that far fewer Cold Weather Payments were made compared with previous years. Winter 2013-14 was exceptionally mild; payments “triggered” in one area only in one week, resulting in expenditure of £27,500. The highest annual expenditure during this period was £10.6 million in 2014-15; between 2008-09 and 2012-13, by comparison, annual expenditure never fell below £129 million.

Winter 2017-18 was colder than the four winters preceding it and this resulted in a greater number of Cold Weather Payments. Over the winter, there were 140 “triggers”, resulting in an estimated 4.75 million payments and estimated expenditure of £118.7 million. The impact of the spell of cold weather at the end of February and into March 2018 can be clearly seen; between 17 February and 9 March there were 90 triggers, which resulted in an estimated 3.9 million payments and estimated expenditure of £98.2 million.

Further background on the Cold Weather Payments scheme can be found in Library Briefing Paper SN/SP/696, Cold Weather Payments. Information is also available at GOV.UK, and the DWP has a series of Frequently Asked Questions on Cold Weather Payments. There is also a search facility showing when payments have been triggered at particular postcodes.

Cold Weather Payments are entirely separate from both the Winter Fuel Payments scheme and the annual “Christmas Bonus” paid to pensioners and claimants of certain other benefits.

This briefing covers the Cold Weather Payments scheme in Great Britain.  A separate but equivalent scheme exists in Northern Ireland. Cold Weather Payments, together with the other benefits which comprise the regulated Social Fund – Winter Fuel Payments, Funeral Payments and the Sure Start Maternity Grant – were devolved to the Scottish Government under the Scotland Act 2016. More information regarding the new powers and information on how the Scottish Government intends to use the powers is available in section 1.4 of the briefing.

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