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COLD weather payments give low-income households a £25 boost if they’ve experienced freezing temperatures – we explain how it works.

Storm Darcy – dubbed the ‘Beast from the East II’ – has been causing chaos across Britain, bringing  howling blizzards from Russia to the UK.

Families playing in the Christmas Day snow on hills in Northumberland

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Families playing in the Christmas Day snow on hills in NorthumberlandCredit: PA press association

Around 30cm of snow is forecast to fall in the hardest-hit areas, and the Met Office has warned Brits not to travel as 12ft snowdrifts block major roads.

As temperatures could fall to -10C, households on certain benefits will want to keep an eye on their thermostats in case they become eligible for a cold weather payment.

Here’s what you need to know:

What to do if you can’t pay your bills

FALLING behind on your energy bills can be extremely stressful.

If you’re struggling to pay what you owe, contact your supplier as soon as possible.

Your provider has to help you come up with a solution, and you should be able to negotiate a deal that works for you both.

One option is to agree a payment plan where you pay off your debts in affordable instalments.

You may be able to pay off your debts directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme.

A fixed amount will automatically be taken to cover what you owe plus your usage.

To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following benefits:

  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income support
  • income-related employment and support allowance
  • Pension credit
  • Universal Credit (but only if you’re not working)

If you cannot come to an agreement with your supplier, they may try to force you to get a prepayment meter installed.

In very rare cases, where you refuse to negotiate, your supplier might threaten you with disconnection.

What is the cold weather payment?

Brits are entitled to an extra £25 to help heat their home when the temperature in their area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees or below for seven consecutive days on average.

As the weather needs to be freezing for seven consecutive days, you won’t be entitled to the extra money if it was zero degrees or below on just one day.

So just because it was below zero where you live last night, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get the payment.

But with temperatures forecast to be grim over the next few days, it could be worth keeping an eye on your local weather.

You can check if your area has had a cold weather payment by popping your postcode into the government’s tool.

If you’re eligible, you should receive payments within 14 working days.

This year’s cold weather payment scheme will run from November 1, 2020, until March 31, 2021.

Who is eligible for a cold weather payment?

You’re eligible for the cold weather payment scheme if you’re in receipt of one of the following benefits and meet certain criteria:

  • Pension credit
  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Universal Credit
  • Support for mortgage interest

Depending on your specific circumstances, you may also need to meet one or more of the following additional criteria:

  • Have a disability or be in receipt of pension premium
  • Have a child who is disabled
  • Be in receipt of child tax credit that includes a disability or severe disability element
  • Have a severe or enhanced disability premium
  • Be in receipt of a limited capability for work amount
  • Have a child under five living with you

Regardless of employment, Universal Credit claimants are eligible if they have a disabled child amount in their claim.You can find out more about eligibility on the government’s website.

How do you apply for the cold weather payment?

The cold weather payment is paid automatically, so you don’t need to apply for it.

If you don’t receive a payment and believe you’re eligible then you can tell your pension centre or Jobcentre Plus office, or call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.

If you’re getting Universal Credit, you can also sign in to your account and add a note to your journal.

If you go into hospital, this could affect your claim so make sure you tell someone using the contact details above.

Another form of help available is the Winter Fuel Allowance – we explain who is eligible and how you apply.

Here’s how to get help paying your energy bills as the snow hits – and you could save over £1,000.

Is it cheaper to leave your heating on low all day? We bust the myth for you.

UK Christmas weather – Crisp, chilly with a chance of snow in some parts of the country

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