I am pleased to be launching this consultation on Low Income Winter Heating Assistance.
This seeks your views on our proposals to introduce a new Scottish benefit to replace the current Cold Weather Payment scheme in Scotland from winter 2022.
Our proposed new benefit, Low Income Winter Heating Assistance, will give the 400,000 low income households currently eligible for Cold Weather Payments the reassurance of a £50 payment every year. This will be an investment of around £20 million each year to support people towards the costs of heating their homes in winter no matter what the weather or temperature.
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. The current requirement for temperatures to be recorded or forecasted at below zero degrees Celsius for seven days in a row in order to trigger a £25 payment provides no certainty to people. Furthermore, we know that the location of the 27 weather stations in Scotland which need to reach this temperature have raised questions on equality and fairness for Cold Weather Payments. In some years only one or no payments have been triggered. If winters, as predicted, are due to be wetter and warmer, this may also reduce the numbers of Cold Weather Payments in the future. We want people to have certainty about receiving a payment, no matter the temperature during the winter or where they live in Scotland.
Our proposed replacement, Low Income Winter Heating Assistance, will provide a single annual payment of £50 to all eligible households receiving income related benefits in the winter. This is the equivalent to two Cold Weather Payments and should ensure that most people will be better off under the new benefit. It is the newest benefit in our ambitious programme to devolve some of the UK benefits system to 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.
Working with individuals and organisations with experience of the benefits system is central to our approach to developing the devolved social security system in Scotland. We are now looking for your views through this consultation to finalise our policy on this benefit. I encourage you to respond to the consultation, and thank you in advance for taking the time to give us your views.