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Arctic blast sets off government's Cold Weather Payment - but are you eligible for the £25 off energy bills?
9 December 2022, 17:20 | Updated: 9 December 2022, 17:23
The Department for Work and Pensions' (DWP) Cold Weather Payment has finally been triggered, after UK temperatures dropped to below freezing and the nation continues to be engulfed in a sudden arctic blast.
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Payments have already been triggered in Nottingham, Woburn in Bedfordshire, and Coleshill in Warwickshire.
To aid households struggling to stay warm in the big freeze, the government has stepped in to slip an additional £25 into the purses of those hardest hit by the cost of living crisis.
While the payment can be applied to harsh energy bills, it's only eligible for those in England and Wales who have fallen into dire straits after the UK experienced a -9C drop in temperature. It completely excludes Scotland.
Those eligible to the DWP's £25 bonus can look forward to receiving the payment automatically through a simple bank transfer.
The government's Cold Weather Payment has been active since the 1 November 2022, but it's taken over a month for it to become accessible to those that need it due to its strict trigger requirements.
The £25 benefit can only be triggered when temperatures fall below, or are expected to fall below, sub-zero for a period of 7 consecutive days. The payment can then be renewed the following week, if temperatures are predicted to stay as cold.
Now that the UK has experienced a sudden arctic cold snap, a reported 400,000 hard-hit households across 300 postcode regions in England and Wales have become recipients of the benefit.
Although eligible households are set to claim the payment automatically, the government website features a search tool that allows the public to check if they can redeem the payment by simply inputting the first half of their postcode.
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The Met Office issued a cold weather warning earlier this week, and the public was alerted to a potentially 'major incident' as the chill was expected to drop to -10C.
After being advised to wear warm layers and eat hot meals, millions of Brits felt the temperature suddenly plummet overnight on December 7.
In the capital, Mayor Sadiq Khan has raced to set off London's first severe weather emergency protocol of the winter to open up accommodation options for homeless people and the most vulnerable.
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Why has the payment been triggered?
The payment has been triggered because for the first time this year temperatures have been recorded as, or are forecasted to hit, -0C for seven consecutive days in regions of England and Wales.
The payment isn't restricted to the winter, and can be triggered at any time until the 31 March 2023, so long as weather conditions drop as dangerously.
Who is eligible for the £25?
People in England or Wales who receive certain benefits or support may be eligible for the government's Cold Weather Payment.
Those likely to be most eligible will be currently receiving income support, income-based job seeker's allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, pension credit, mortgage interest support, and universal credit.
However, the exact criteria for receiving the DWP's £25 really depends on individual circumstances which can be checked on the government website. The public can also have a look and see whether their home address is included in the list of regions eligible for the benefit using the website's postcode checker.
Those eligible will receive a standard payment of £25 for each seven-day-period where the weather is expected to drop to below freezing from now until the 31 March 2023.
Recipients will be paid automatically within 14 days into the same bank account that they receive benefit payments in.
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What about Scotland?
Scottish citizens are not eligible for the DWP's Cold Weather Payment, but they can claim an annual £50 Winter Heating Payment instead, regardless of the weather conditions in a specific area.
Energy bills have been steadily increasing for months in parallel to the rise in the cost of living. In November, Ofgem had announced that the energy price cap is set to rise to an annual level of £4,279 in January 2023.
In his Autumn Statement, Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt had stated that the current Tory administration are a "compassionate" one that will support struggling Brits navigate an economic landscape where inflation has hit a 45-year-high of 11.1%.
In an open letter published to their website, the Chief Executive of fuel poverty charity National Energy Action urged that the "government must prioritise the most vulnerable in 2023 and beyond."
While the DWP's £25 bonus will help thousands, many people who aren't eligible for the Cold Weather Payment will still be feeling the pressure of rising household expenses.
Certain energy providers are on hand to help, and it's been advised that struggling households reach out to their specific energy provider and enquire about the benefits and support that they can provide.
British Gas has also announced that it will provide financial support on energy bills to those eligible for it, even if they aren't a direct customer.