Scotland consults on new heating benefit

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The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on a new heating benefit that will give around 400,000 low income households the reassurance of a guaranteed £50 payment every winter.

The Low Income Winter Heating Assistance will be introduced from winter 2022 to replace the current UK Government Cold Weather Payment scheme.

The current UK Government benefit triggers a £25 payment only when temperatures are recorded or forecast at below zero degrees Celsius for seven days in a row.

The replacement Low Income Winter Heating Assistance benefit from the Scottish Government is set to provide financial stability, ‘no matter the weather.’

Social Security Minister Ben Macpherson said: “Low Income Winter Heating Assistance will be an investment of around £20 million every year to reliably support people towards the costs of heating their homes irrespective of the weather, temperature, or where they live in Scotland.

“Although Cold Weather Payments have been a valuable support for some during periods of very cold weather, there have been some years when hardly any payments have been made at all by the UK Government.

“If winters, as predicted, are due to become generally wetter and warmer then this may also reduce the numbers of Cold Weather Payments in the future. We want people to have certainty about receiving a payment.

“Our proposed new benefit will be the equivalent to two payments of Cold Weather Payment and should ensure that most people will be better off. Significantly, it will also enable us to provide assistance to more households that are at risk of fuel poverty.

“This is another important milestone in our ambitious programme, using the devolved social security powers we have to deliver more effective benefits for the people of Scotland, and is also part of our broader approach to support people who need extra help with heating costs during the coldest months of the year.”

Last year there were 854,000 payments made to Cold Weather Payment recipients in Scotland, totalling more than £21 million.

However, the year before there were only 7,000 payments, totalling less than £250,000. As payments are weather-dependent, overall expenditure fluctuates considerably from year to year.

The new consultation focuses on the policy intention behind the delivery of the new Low Income Winter Heating Assistance (LIWHA). This will build on the broader consultation on the Social Security Bill in 2016.

The new consultation aims to provide an overview of the new payments aim, its key eligibility criteria and format. It will lay out how the Scottish Government intends to deliver this new benefit through Social Security Scotland. The consultation also wants to identify any unintended consequences of the proposals.

This consultation asks questions on whether the policy intent set out in the Scottish approach to replacing Cold Weather Payments to identify the best possible approach to delivering them before drafting the benefit regulations.

This consultation closes on 23rd of February 2022.

More information about this consultation and how to take part is available on the Scottish Government website.