02/12/2002

Claimants warned to apply early for winter fuel payments

The government has warned people who believe are eligible for Winter Fuel Payments to contact the government's helpline to ensure they can benefit from the scheme.

Anyone reaching age 60 or over during the week 16-22 September 2002 will usually be entitled to a Winter Fuel Payments of £200. Payment does not depend on the amount of your income or savings and you don’t have to pay tax on it.

NIO minister Des Browne urged those people who have not yet received a payment to check and ensure they don’t miss out.

“While the majority of people receive their payment automatically, many people who do not receive benefits could be eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment and I would urge them to contact the Winter Fuel Payment Helpline,” he said.

For those who are automatically entitled to receive a Winter Fuel Payment, the government has pledged to send it out in time for Christmas. The vast majority of the over 60s who receive a Social Security Benefit get their payment automatically and so could expect to benefit from payments before Christmas.

Mr Browne said: “Meeting the costs of keeping a home warm can be a worry to many of us. It is vital that those most vulnerable in our community are given the security of guaranteed winter warmth.

“Winter Fuel Payments are just one of the many steps we are taking to tackle the problem of fuel poverty in Northern Ireland. These payments, along with the Warm Homes Scheme and the Cold Weather Payments, are an integral part in ensuring that the homes of the over 60s are warm and comfortable this year.”

The Warm Homes Scheme aims to create warmer and healthier homes for elderly people, those on low incomes and people with disabilities. Grants are available for insulation measures to private sector households where the occupants are on income or disability-based benefits and including central heating for pensioners on certain income-related benefits.

Claim forms can be obtained from the Winter Fuel Payment Helpline on 08459 151515, or at local Social Security offices, the Benefit Shop in Castle Court, Belfast and from the Social Security Agency’s website www.ssani.gov.uk

(GMcG)

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