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Cold weather payments 'over £100m'

Cold weather payments of around £100 million have been paid out in Scotland over the last three years, according to the UK Government.

The payments were set up to help the poorest people with their heating bills during the coldest weeks of winter and are made to eligible people such as some pensioners and those on certain benefits.

Last month Pensions Minister Steve Webb said the benefits will remain at £25 a week this winter.

The Department for Work and Pensions has issued a breakdown of the payments made between 2010-11 and 2011-13, which shows that the Government spent £706 million over that period.

Of the total, around £103.4 million was spent in Scotland, according to the statistics.

By far the largest payout was in the winter of 2010-11 when almost £94 million was paid to 776,300 people.

The following year a further £1.8 million was spent in Scotland, while £7.6 million went on cold weather payments in 2012-13.

Mr Webb said: "We are absolutely committed to helping the poorest pensioners and those most susceptible to the cold. We permanently increased cold weather payments to £25 a week to help them heat their homes when it's really cold, and have paid out over £706 million since 2010 on this support.

"People who get pension credit are automatically paid cold weather payments and in the cold winter days ahead, it's even more important that older people check if they are entitled so they don't miss out on cold weather payments."

The charity Age Scotland said the payments are a "useful top-up" but said extra measures are needed to tackle the effect of soaring energy prices on people on low incomes.

A charity spokesman said: "Cold weather payments are a useful top-up for older people's incomes during winter but, with home energy prices soaring, we expect many low-income older people will find them insufficient to cover rising costs.

"The biggest difference the UK Government could make to older people who endure winter misery in cold homes is to use the money it collects in carbon taxes to make their homes super-energy efficient. This would lift them out of fuel poverty for good so that never again would older people face the dilemma of heating or eating."

Housing Minister Margaret Burgess said: "We welcome all steps to alleviate the burden of fuel poverty which affects the most vulnerable of society, such as pensioners and families on low incomes, the most.

"However, more needs to be done to help those affected. This is why, with the powers of independence, this Government would tackle fuel poverty head on by removing the costs of programmes like the Energy Company Obligation and Warm Homes Discount from people's fuel bills and meet them through central resources, which means energy companies would be able to reduce bills by around 5% or around £70 per household.

"This will allow us to tackle fuel poverty much more directly, delivering Scottish solutions to Scottish problems, and ensuring that energy companies always behave in a socially responsible way to protect vulnerable customers."


From Belfast Telegraph