Analysis of written responses to the consultation on social security in Scotland

Analysis of responses to a public consultation to inform the content of the new Scottish Social Security Bill.

8. Winter Fuel and Cold Weather Payments

Proposals for winter fuel and cold weather payments

8.1 The Scottish Government set out its proposals for winter fuel and cold weather payments in Part 2 of the consultation document.

Question - Do you have any comments about the Scottish Government's proposals for Winter Fuel and Cold Weather Payments?

8.2 In total, 164 respondents answered this question (82 individuals and 82 organisations).

8.3 The main themes emerging were comments on:

  • eligibility and qualifying criteria;
  • methods of improving fuel efficiency; and
  • awareness and understanding of the payments;

Eligibility and qualifying criteria

8.4 Overall, a large number of respondents felt that Winter Fuel and Cold Weather Payments were necessary to tackle fuel poverty and inequality and they generally welcomed the approach.

"I agree with the approach taken to identify local weather trigger points, as this is fairer and, one hopes, more flexible than the current system."

"We commend the on-going commitment of the Scottish Government to reduce fuel poverty."
Scottish Care

8.5 A large number of respondents said that they were in favour of expanding the eligibility criteria to include families with children receiving the higher rate of DLA / PIP and accelerating payments to people off the main gas grid. They were also keen that the Scottish Government should continue to look at expansion of these payments to other groups at risk of fuel poverty that do not qualify for the higher rate of DLA / PIP.

"Consideration could also be given to those in receipt of the lower rate of DLA / PIP.

I hope that the Scottish Government will in due course consider extending this to other vulnerable groups, for example lone parent families, many of whom are considered to be in fuel poverty."
Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland

Improving fuel efficiency

8.6 Whilst respondents appreciated the new proposals, they also mentioned the need to improve fuel efficiency through upgrading existing homes ( e.g. through insulation or smart meters) and building more energy efficient housing.

"Current claimants appreciate the help towards their bills. Improving the quality of housing is important to reduce fuel poverty, too."

8.7 Some respondents felt that universal provision of the payment should be reconsidered. They felt that means testing or allowing people to opt-out would be more cost efficient, and would still ensure that people needing the payment received it. However, a few respondents stated their preference for payments to remain universal, and were not in favour of means testing.

"While we do appreciate and understand the reasons for not means-testing, many wealthier older people wish to refuse the payment based on the fact that they are not struggling financially, and want the money to be used by someone more in need."
Midlothian Community Planning Partnership / Midlothian Council

"Non means tested Winter Fuel payments to pensioners should be reviewed. Millions of pounds are being given every year to pensioners who are not in financial difficulties and have retired on comfortable private pensions as well as a state pension. They may also have substantial savings. This is an inadequate way of distributing a benefit that is intended to act as a safety net for the more vulnerable in society."

8.8 A few respondents also mentioned:

  • the need for increased awareness of these payments, to ensure that all people receive their entitlements;
  • the possibility of redesigning or merging the two payments;
  • the current requirement for seven days of cold weather to occur before the Cold Weather payment is triggered is too long and a more flexible approach would be preferred; and
  • that these payments should only be available to people living continuously in Scotland, not those living or spending significant periods of time abroad.

Question - Could changes be made to the eligibility criteria for Cold Weather Payments? For example, what temperature and length should Cold Weather Payments be made on in Scotland?

8.9 141 respondents answered this question (73 individuals and 68 organisations).

8.10 Most respondents answering this question felt that some changes could be made to Cold Weather Payments. A few respondents noted that the system for Cold Weather Payments needs to be simpler and easier to understand.

8.11 The main issue discussed was related to eligibility criteria. Many respondents felt that the eligibility criteria should be more generous and flexible to account for the extreme changes in weather over a short period of time, which disqualify people from the payment. They wanted the time period of seven days to be reduced and for the temperature limit to be raised above zero degrees Celsius.

"Rather than 7 consecutive days which does not recognise where a warmer day has broken a spell of cold weather which may have persisted over a longer time, we would ask for consideration of qualifying days being considered over a longer time so as to minimise situations where a warmer day is atypical in a much colder period, for example if considering whether temperature has been zero degrees for 7 days in any two-week period."
Rights Advice Scotland

8.12 Some respondents said that the eligibility criteria should also take account of wind chill, wind speed, regional variations and housing conditions, as these can all impact on the need to heat a home.

8.13 A few respondents were in favour of a new benefit addressing fuel poverty that would be easier to administer and would better support people over the entire winter period. Alternatively, respondents suggested that these funds could be used to boost income related social security payments so that people were better able to manage their fuel payments. A few respondents queried whether Cold Weather Payments could be linked to other energy efficiency initiatives.

"Ideally benefit payments and energy bills should be at a level that allow everyone to heat their home adequately without the need for piecemeal allowances that are only paid out in very extreme weather."

8.14 Some respondents felt that Cold Weather Payments should be made available for a wider range of people including carers, disabled people and people on low incomes.

"Eligibility for cold weather and winter fuel payments should include all vulnerable groups: the elderly, the disabled and families with disabled children and children of pre-school age, mediated by predefined trigger points suitable to Scottish conditions as referred to in the consultation."
Scottish Federation of Housing Associations


Email: Trish Brady-Campbell

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