HC Deb 15 January 1998 vol 304 c314W
Mr. Gale

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when she expects to table regulations implementing the introduction of cold weather payments; what provisions she intends to make to enable those elderly people using key meters to pay their heating bill; and if she will make a statement. [23210]

Mr. Denham

The Social Fund Winter Fuel Payments Regulations were laid before the House on 8 January and will come into force on 16 January.

Publication of the Regulations followed an announcement on 5 January, which outlined the detail of the scheme. A publicity campaign has now been launched involving media advertising, posters and leaflets in conjunction with Help The Aged, Age Concern and the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux. It is designed to ensure that pensioners are aware of what payments they will receiving, how and when. This information will enable pensioners to heat their homes confident in the knowledge that they will get extra help with their heaviest fuel bill.

People receiving Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, and where their benefit includes one of the pensioner premiums, will receive a payment of £50. Around 1.5 million payments should be made by the end of January.

Other eligible pensioners will receive a payment of £20 or £10. Where there is only one eligible person in a household, or the eligible person is of no fixed abode, they will receive £20; otherwise, each person will receive £10. It is estimated that nearly three and a half million payments will be issued for £20 and almost five million for £10.

Overall, almost ten million payments will be made to over seven million pensioner households this winter, at a cost of around £200 million. The great majority of payments will be made by the end of March.

Information is not held on the method of payment used for heating costs by eligible pensioners, but the announcement that a payment will be made provides certainty that money is coming. Many of the poorest pensioners receive Income Support, or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, and could receive a Cold Weather Payment should there be a spell of very cold weather in their locality.