Social Security Experience Panels - Low Income Winter Heating Assistance: survey findings

Results of survey asking the Experience Panels members their thoughts on the new Low Income Winter Heating Assistance benefit in Scotland.

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The timing of the benefit payment

Because February tends to be one of the coldest months in Scotland, it is intended that the payment should be made during this month.[6] We asked Panel members if they thought Low Income Winter Heating Assistance should be paid in February. 42 per cent of respondents said 'Yes, it should be paid in February', while 36 per cent said, 'No, it should not be paid in February'. 21 per cent of respondents said they didn't know.

Table 12. Should the benefit be paid in February?
(n=284) Number of respondents % of respondents
Yes 120 42%
No 103 36%
Don't know 61 21%

Some respondents who said 'Yes, the benefit should be paid in February', provided reasons for their answer. Most positive responses acknowledged that the largest winter bills tend to arrive in February, and also that the timing was right as it falls in the middle of the winter period. It was mentioned that there will be some people using pay-as-you-go meters who will be able to afford heating at the coldest time. A few respondents suggested that the payment being made in February was a good idea because there would be some people who might want to spend the payment over the Christmas period, and not use it for heating costs. Generally, respondents agreed that this would be the time they needed it most.

"I think the biggest bills come in February."

"Covers midway through [the] usual cold period."

"Too many vulnerable people blow their money over Christmas and New Year."

Some respondents who disagreed with the benefit being paid in February, provided reasons for their choice. Most people suggested that the benefit should be paid earlier: variously, they proposed, "January", "the start of winter", "December", and remarked that, "winter is in November". A few respondents said that the benefit should not be paid in one instalment, suggesting that it could be paid every three to six months, or spreading the payment out between December and March. It was also pointed out that there are many people in Scotland who rely on solid fuel for heat, and that they need to buy this before winter begins. People who rely on solid fuel often live in the coldest areas. A recent Scottish Government report showed that 79 per cent of households using solid mineral fuel in Scotland as their primary fuel type are in rural areas, and that around half of households (46 per cent) using solid mineral fuels in Scotland are fuel poor compared to the national average of 25 per cent.[7]

"People who rely on bulk fuel orders need to pay for their winter fuel, usually by November which is when payment is needed."

"Should be around October for people to get ahead, i.e. folk on top-up meters."

"Far too late. It needs to be paid in November. By February people will already be in arrears with electricity and gas bills."



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