To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of Age UK's recommendation that in order to tackle fuel poverty, especially amongst older people (a) the Household Support Fund should be doubled and (b) persons eligible for the Cold Weather Payment should be provided with a £50 one-off payment in winter 2021-22.
The Government has committed to keeping the Winter Fuel Payment, which helps older people with the cost of heating their homes in the winter. The payment gives reassurance to pensioners that Government assistance is available and that they can keep warm during the colder months. Over 11 million pensioners benefit from Winter Fuel Payments at an annual cost of £2bn which is a significant contribution to winter fuel bills. We will continue to pay £200 for households with somebody who has reached State Pension age and is under age 80; or £300 for households with somebody aged 80 and over.
The Government has provided £500 million to help vulnerable households across the country with essentials this winter. The Household Support Fund will provide £421 million to help vulnerable people in England with the cost of food, utilities and wider essentials. The Barnett Formula will apply in the usual way, with the devolved administrations receiving almost £80 million (£41m for the Scottish Government, £25m for the Welsh Government and £14m for the NI Executive), for a total of £500 million.
Local Authorities in England have discretion to design their own bespoke local schemes, within the overall parameters of the Household Support Fund, with help primarily focused on food and utility bills. Up to 50% of the fund is available for councils to use on households without children. Local Authorities will use their resources to identify vulnerable households who are in most need in their area and can apply their own discretion to eligibility and the size of the award. This funding covers the period 06 October 2021 to 31 March 2022 inclusive.
The Cold Weather Payment scheme helps vulnerable people in receipt of certain income-related benefits to meet the additional costs of heating for every week of severe cold weather, between 01 November and 31 March each year. A payment of £25 is made when the average temperature has been recorded as, or is forecast to be, 0 degrees C or below over seven consecutive days at the weather station linked to an eligible person’s postcode. It is paid automatically within 14 working days of a trigger to ensure claimants receive payments at the time of need. Between 01 November 2020 and 31 March 2021 the Government made £98.8 million in payments to those in need.