Winter payments: Labour claims new Scottish Government benefit will leave thousands out of pocket

‘New payments don’t offer same level of targeted support’
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Thousands of Scots could be left out of pocket as a result of the Scottish Government's "disastrous" new winter heating benefit, Labour has claimed.

Under the new Winter Heating Payment scheme, eligible households are automatically awarded a £50 payment. Unlike the previous Cold Weather Payment, operated by the Department for Work and Pensions, the Scottish Government system does not need temperatures to fall below a certain level before payments are made. But Labour has claimed the new system does not provide the same level of targeted support.

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It comes after research by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) indicated more than 65,000 households would have been worse off if the Cold Weather Payment system had been in place in 2020-21. Spice, however, said its figures "give an indication of scale rather than providing reliable specific figures". The Scottish Government meanwhile insisted its new Winter Heating Payment would provide a "reliable £50 payment each year" to around 400,000 low-income households.

The new Winter Heating Payment automatically awards £50 to eligible households.The new Winter Heating Payment automatically awards £50 to eligible households.
The new Winter Heating Payment automatically awards £50 to eligible households.

But Scottish Labour's social security spokesperson Pam Duncan-Glancy said: "This disastrous new scheme risks leaving thousands of Scots out of pocket this winter." With payments for this year expected to be made from February 2023, the Labour MSP insisted it was "unthinkable to plough ahead with these dangerous changes as bills soar, temperatures drop and people are facing the impossible choice between heating and eating". Ms Duncan-Glancy said: "The SNP need to set out an emergency plan to stop people missing out on lifeline payments as the cold weather bites this winter."

A Scottish Government spokesperson insisted, however, that the new scheme would see more people get payments. The spokesperson said: "Our new Winter Heating Payment will provide a reliable £50 payment each year to around 400,000 people on low incomes to help with their heating expenses every winter. This means we will invest around £20 million every year, compared with an average of £8.3 million per year over the last seven years (2015/16-2021/22) from the UK Government, which on average supported just 185,000 people a year with Cold Weather Payments over the same period.

"By making the changes we have we are guaranteeing everyone eligible will receive a payment every year, rather than the UK Government approach of requiring the weather being sufficiently cold for a sustained period of time."