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The Winter Fuel Payment is a tax-free annual payment to help older people pay their winter heating bills.

Most payments are made automatically between November and December. Individuals usually get a Winter Fuel Payment automatically if they get the State Pension or certain other benefits.  The “standard” rates are £200 per eligible household where the oldest person is under 80, and £300 for households containing a person aged 80 or over. 

To be eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment, a person must have reached the relevant age threshold before the end of the “qualifying week” (for this year, 16 to 22 September 2019).  The relevant age is the State Pension age, which means that to receive a payment this winter (2019/2020), a person must have been born on or before 5 April 1954. 

Further information on the rules, details of the payment arrangements for this winter and claim forms are available at the GOV.UK website.

Some have argued that the Winter Fuel Payment and other “universal benefits” for older people can no longer be justified, in light of the deficit and benefit cuts facing non-retired households. Whether it should continue to be universal has been an issue at past elections.

Background to the scheme can be found in Commons Library briefing SN/SP/599, Winter Fuel Payments, which covers the policy up to 2005. For the rules applying to people in care homes and in receipt of certain benefits, see Library Briefing Paper SN-01475 Winter Fuel Payments: people in residential care (November 2013).

The Winter Fuel Payments scheme is entirely separate from the Cold Weather Payments scheme, under which recipients of certain benefits receive automatic payments of £25 a week during periods of very cold weather – see Commons Library briefing CBP-8254 (April 2018). Library briefing CBP-6163, Help with energy bills, (March 2019) gives information on other sources of financial and practical help with domestic energy bills, and also outlines current policy developments.

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