My late father was eligible for winter fuel payment, so is it still paid? Steve Webb explains the rules for help with heating costs
My father passed away in November. He was entitled to the fuel payment and his confirmation letter was received, but I have now closed all bank accounts to get the finances in order.
Does he still have or am I entitled to this money as I am the executor, and who do I contact? This payment was due this or next month.
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Heating costs: My late father was eligible for winter fuel payment, so is it still being paid?
Steve Webb answers: I was sorry to read about your recent death.
With the current cold snap, I thought it might be helpful to answer your specific question about winter fuel payment rules as well as remind readers of the other sources of help available with fuel bills.
The rules for qualifying for Winter Fuel Payments are relatively simple.
If you have passed state pension age and have lived in the UK for at least one day during the relevant qualification week, you are eligible. The qualification week for 2020 was from September 21-27.
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If the eligible person subsequently passes away between the qualification week and the payment, the payment is still due and can be received by the estate of the person who died.
There is a dedicated Winter Fuel Payments Center you can call or email and their contact details are there here.
In addition to the Winter Fuel Payments scheme, there are two other major sources of help with fuel bills that are helpful for people to be aware of, especially if lockdown has led to increases in home heating and electricity bills.
The first is the ‘Cold Weather Payments’ system, which is completely separate from the Winter Fuel Payments scheme.
The Cold Weather Payments scheme covers all those with a retirement credit plus those of working age if they are disabled or have a young child, provided they receive universal credit or similar income-related benefits.
The amount of the cold weather payment you receive depends on the temperature in your area.
Every UK address is associated with a Met Office weather station, and if the temperature at that station is below freezing for seven consecutive days, a payment is triggered.
The current rate is £ 25 for a week. A prolonged cold snap can lead to a string of £ 25 payments.
The scheme runs from the beginning of November to the end of March and you can check whether your zip code has had a cold snap by looking here.
STEVE WEBB ANSWERS YOUR PENSION QUESTIONS
The important thing to note is that cold weather payments are not an isolated benefit – they are ‘tagged’ when you claim another benefit.
This means that it is vital that you claim a retirement credit or similar benefit to which you may be entitled as this is your passport to be entitled to cold weather benefits during a cold spell.
The good news is that new retirement credit claims can generally be backdated for up to three months, so if you claim now, you may be able to get both the retirement credit and the accompanying cold weather payments for the whole winter so far.
The other major source of help with fuel bills is the Warm Home Discount scheme. Again, this is not a standalone benefit, but is linked to the receipt of other benefits, particularly the ‘guarantee credit’ element of retirement credit.
You may also be eligible if you have a low income and meet the conditions set by your energy supplier. Eligibility depends on your situation in the summer each year and the reference date for 2020 was July 5.
Those eligible for a Warm Home Discount payment receive a € 140 per year discount on the electricity bill.
For those with ‘guarantee credit’, this process should be automatic in most cases, as the DWP will let your utility company know to apply a discount to your bill.
But if you have a low income but no ‘guarantee credit’, you should contact your energy supplier directly to make a claim.
Whether it’s Cold Weather Payments or the Warm Home Discount scheme, claiming retirement credit can be a path to valuable help.
You can apply for your pension credit online or by telephone and you can read here how to submit an application here.
Those who receive even a small amount of retirement credit may also qualify for rent and city tax assistance and take advantage of a free TV license if they are 75 or older, so it’s worth filing a claim in to serve.
Ask Steve Webb a retirement question
Former Pensions Secretary Steve Webb is the uncle of This Is Money.
He’s on hand to answer your questions, whether you’re still saving, quitting work, or juggling your finances when you’re retired.
Steve left the Department of Work and Pensions after the May 2015 elections. He is now a partner at actuary and consulting firm Lane Clark & Peacock.
If you would like to ask Steve a question about pensions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve will do his best to respond to your post in a subsequent column, but he won’t be able to reply to everyone or correspond with readers privately. Nothing in his answers constitutes regulated financial advice. Published questions are sometimes edited for brevity or other reasons.
Please include a daytime telephone number with your message – this will be treated confidentially and not used for marketing purposes.
If Steve can’t answer your question, you can also contact The Pensions Advisory Service, a government-backed organization that provides free assistance to the public. TPAS can be found here and the number is 0800 011 3797.
StevE gets a lot of questions about AOW forecasts and COPE – the Contracted Out Pension Equivalent. When you write Steve on this topic, he responds to a typical reader question here. It contains links to Steve’s several previous columns on state retirement and outsourcing forecasting, which can be helpful.
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