The Winter Fuel Payment is a state benefit paid once per year in the United Kingdom to qualifying individuals. It is intended to cover the additional costs of heating over the winter months. It was introduced by the Labour government in 1997 and was first announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown in his Pre-Budget Statement of that year.
To be eligible for the benefit in a particular year, a person must be over age 60 (born before a specific qualifying date — e.g. 5 January 1952 for payments for the winter 2013-2014), and in a specified week (22-29 September 2013, for 2013-2014) must be resident in the United Kingdom and not in any of the excluded groups (prisoners, people receiving long-term free hospital care, those with certain immigration issues, and those living in care homes and receiving income-related benefits such as pension credit).
The amount paid is greater for those aged 80 and above, and is set so that a person living alone (or with people ineligible for the payment) is paid twice as much as a person in a household where more than one person receives the payment.
If the weather is particularly cold, a cold weather payment may also be made.
The Social Fund (Winter Fuel Payment) Regulations 2000 govern the system, under the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992.
In the winter of 2011-12, the benefit cost the government £2.1 billion and was paid to 12.7 million people.
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