Most respondents were aware of the different support available to help meet the costs of heating in winter months. The majority of respondents said that they had heard of Winter Fuel Payments (96 per cent) and Cold Weather Payments (89 per cent). Most were also "confident" or "very confident" what these were (89 per cent and 77 per cent respectively). More than three in five (62 per cent) respondents said that they know what the Warm Home Discount scheme is. More than half (57 per cent) said that they were "confident" or "very confident" that they know the difference between Winter Fuel Payment and Warm Home Discount.
More than one in five (21 per cent) said that meeting the cost of fuel for heating caused them financial difficulty throughout the year, and a further 55 per cent said it caused financial difficulty in colder months.
Around half (51 per cent) said that they would know where to go for information on Cold Weather Payment and/or Winter Fuel Payment. A quarter had accessed information about these benefits at Gov.uk. The other more common places to get information were friends or family and Citizens Advice.
More than half (56 per cent) of respondents said that they had received a Winter Fuel Payment. Of those respondents, almost four in five (77 per cent) said that they had received the payment automatically, and one in six (16 per cent) had applied for the payment. Those who had gone through an application process to receive Winter Fuel Payment mostly had a positive experience, and said that the process was quick and simple, that they had received enough information and that the payment had been helpful. They suggested that it could be improved by increasing the amount of the payment and that it could be more widely advertised.
More than eight in ten (81 per cent) respondents who had received Winter Fuel Payment said that they received a letter to tell them that they were going to receive the payment. Almost all of these people said that they understood why they got the letter, and many said there was nothing they would change about it. Some said that it could be improved by making the difference between Winter Fuel Payment and Cold Weather Payment clearer, or suggested that the format of the letter could be more accessible or that they would prefer email communications.
A small number of respondents who had received Winter Fuel Payment said that their energy supply was "off-grid". Among these respondents, the most popular time of year to receive the payment would be September/October. These respondents described a preferences for being able to buy fuel when it is cheaper (i.e. in warmer months), although some said that they would rather receive the payment during the months when bills themselves are higher.
More than half (58 per cent) of respondents said that they had received a Cold Weather Payment. More than three in five of these (63 per cent) said that their experience of the payment was "good" or "very good". The fact that it is paid automatically into their account was highlighted as particularly positive. Others commented that the payment eased financial pressure and allowed them to heat their homes during cold spells.
However there were a number of areas that were highlighted for improvement. In particular many felt that the requirement for seven consecutive days at or below zero degrees celcius was too strict and that it made it difficult to plan - not knowing whether the cold spell will last the full seven days prevented some from putting their heating on when needed.
Some also felt that the temperature cut-off was too strict, that many will find it very cold when temperatures are slightly above freezing, and that the cut-off does not account for wind chill or temperature variation within a region (for example if a house is on a hill). Some felt that individual circumstances should be taken into account - for example if someone has a health condition which impacts on their temperature regulation, the insulation within the home, or whether the house is on or off-grid. A number of respondents also highlighted that for those with pre-paid meters the payment comes weeks after it is needed.
Three quarters of respondents who had received a Cold Weather Payment said that they had received a letter to tell them that they were getting the payment. Almost all (97 per cent) of these respondents said that they understood why they were getting the payment. When asked if there was anything they would change about the letter, some felt that it was unnecessary, or said that it had arrived after the payment had been received.
Almost three in five (59 per cent) respondents who had experience of Cold Weather Payment "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that the timing of the payment was helpful. Many said that it was helpful and that they were able to put the payment towards their next bill. However, a number of respondents said it was very rare that they received a payment and that they found it hard to predict. The timing of the payment was also highlighted as a problem for those with pre-paid meters.
One in six (16 per cent) respondents who had experience of Cold Weather Payment said that they had at some point expected a payment but not received one. These experiences concerned, in the main, people who felt the temperature where they live was different to the measurement point for their area, or those who felt the criteria for payment were too strict. A small number had experienced processing errors.