State Pension  

Pensioners fail to claim £150bn of cold weather benefits

Pensioners fail to claim £150bn of cold weather benefits

More than a million pensioners have left almost £150bn in cold weather benefits unclaimed, according to research by Royal London.

Based on official figures from the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP), the provider calculated low income pensioners aren't fully taking advantage of cold weather payments, a benefit which pays £25 a week during cold spells, or the warm home discount, which gives individuals a discount on their energy bills.

According to Royal London, only pensioners claiming pension credit get automatic access to these schemes, and official figures show that up to 1.4 million entitled pensioners are missing out on pension credit and therefore on cold weather payments and other help.

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Sir Steve Webb, director of policy at Royal London and former pensions minister, argues that "with the cold snap continuing, many pensioners will be worried about fuel bills, so it is good that there is help available for the most vulnerable".

He said: "Family members should check if their elderly relatives are aware of pension credit and claiming for it, as it would automatically give them access to the cold weather payment and warm home discount schemes.

"Anyone worried about their fuel bill this winter should also contact their energy company to find out what help is available."

Cold weather payments are paid at £25 per week for each period of seven days when the temperature is, or is forecast to be, below zero at a local weather station.

Pensioners may be entitled to this payment if they are getting any of the following benefits: pension credit, universal credit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance or income-related employment and support allowance.

So far this winter, DWP has paid out £40m in cold weather payments, with just under half going to pensioners.

Under the warm home discount scheme, energy companies are required to apply a rebate to electricity bills for certain low income groups.

This applies to the very poorest pension credit recipients - those receiving the 'guarantee credit' element of pension credit.

The DWP estimates that up to 950,000 of the poorest pensioners are missing out on this element of pension credit.

If they were to claim, they would get an automatic energy bill rebate of £140, Sir Steve said.

maria.espadinha@ft.com