01 March 2018

1 in 3 poorest pensioners missing out on £150 million in vital cold weather help - government needs to take 'emergency action'

5 min read

 
Steve Webb - Director of Policy

Steve Webb

Director of Policy, Royal London

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New analysis of official government figures by mutual insurer Royal London shows that well over a million pensioners – 1 in 3 of those entitled - are missing out on access to two schemes designed to help with fuel bills.

Low income pensioners can get help via ‘Cold Weather Payments’ which pay £25 per week during cold spells, and can also get a discount on their energy bills via the Warm Home Discount scheme.

But only certain 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. The total amount lost this winter alone is approaching £150 million and is rising with every week of cold weather.

Commenting, Steve Webb, Director of Policy at Royal London said:

"Many pensioners are worried about fuel bills, so it is good that there are schemes such as cold weather payments and the warm home discount to help the most vulnerable. But it is shocking that the government admits that up to 1.4 million pensioners could be missing out because they fail to claim pension credit which triggers entitlement to these other forms of help. The government spends virtually nothing on publicity for pension credit, and as a result many vulnerable pensioners are missing out. The failure to drive up pension credit take-up means over a million pensioners face a bitter winter. There should be an emergency advertising campaign aimed both at pensioners and their families to drive up take-up of this vital help."

Figures on non take-up of income-related benefits are published by the DWP. The latest report says:

Not only do these families miss out on £2,000 per year of pension credit, they also miss out on automatic access to two schemes designed to help with winter fuel bills. These are:

a) Cold Weather Payments

These payments (not to be confused with winter fuel payments, which are paid every winter to all pensioners) are at £25 per week for each period of 7 days when the temperature is (or is forecast to be) below zero at a local weather station. Pensioners on pension credit get these payments automatically. So far this winter, the DWP has paid out £40 million in cold weather payments, with just under half going to pensioners. In warmer parts of the country the temperature test has not been triggered at all, but in some areas up to six £25 payments have been issued to poorer residents, and the current extreme conditions are expected to trigger many more payments. Details of the scheme are here: https://www.gov.uk/cold-weather-payment

b) Warm Home Discount

Under this scheme, energy companies are required to apply a rebate to electricity bills for certain low income groups. The scheme applies to the very poorest pension credit recipients - those receiving the ‘guarantee credit’ element of pension credit. 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. For more details see: https://www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme

If 950,000 pensioners are missing out on a rebate of £140, this would be £133 million in unclaimed help via the Warm Home Discount scheme in addition to tens of millions of pounds of cold weather payments on which pensioners are missing out.

- ENDS -

For further information please contact:

Steve Webb, Director of Policy, Royal London

Note to editors

Information on how to claim Pension Credit can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/pension-credit and it can be claimed by telephone on 0800 99 1234. It is aimed in particular at single pensioners with a weekly income of £159.35 and couples with a joint income of £243.25 per week or less. Those with incomes slightly above this level because of private pension income may also be entitled to help. 

About Royal London:

Royal London is the largest mutual life, pensions and investment company in the UK, with funds under management of £117 billion, 8.8 million policies in force and 3,745 employees. Figures quoted are as at 30 June 2018.