Older people are being urged to claim their Winter Fuel Payments, increased for this winter, to help them with higher energy costs.  The call comes as figures show that over 616,000 pensioners across the North are set to benefit from the extra help.
For households with someone aged 60-79 it will increase from £200 to £250 and for those with someone aged 80 and over, it will increase from £300 to £400.

Those already in receipt of the payment will receive it automatically and do not need to contact the department unless their circumstances have changed.

But those who have not received a payment before should get their  applications in as quickly as possible, to make sure they receive the payment before Christmas.

Labour’s Pensions Minister Mike O’Brien said:

“We’re spending an extra £575m to increase Winter Fuel Payments this year to help pensioners facing increases in their energy bills.

“Last year around 12 million pensioners in more than 8.5 million households received payments from the government.

“We don’t want anyone to miss out on the help they are entitled to. If you haven’t received a Winter Fuel Payment before you need to apply by September 19 to receive your payment before Christmas.”

Mike O’Brien said the government will continue to work with energy companies to help consumers cut energy use and lower their bills.

“Now is the ideal time of year to check on the energy efficiency of your home. Proper insulation can make a real difference to your bills. As much as £1 in every £3 spent on heating bills is wasted in poorly insulated homes.

“I’d also encourage people to make the market work for them – to contact their energy suppliers to see whether they qualify for a reduced tariff and find out what they provide to improve energy efficiency.

“Customers should shop around and consider switching their energy supplier as different firms offer different tariffs – average savings from switching are between £130-150 in total."

Notes to editors

1. The Winter Fuel Payment is one of a number of initiatives the government has introduced to help older people keep warm and well during the winter months.

2. Anyone aged 60 or over on or before 21 September 2008 may qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment of £250 per household. Households with someone aged 80 or over could get a payment of £400

3. People over 60 who are newly eligible and who need to claim, and have not already received a claim form, can get one by visiting the Winter Fuel Payment website –, by calling the helpline on 08459 15 15 15 (0845 601 5613 for textphone users).

4. The final deadline for completed Winter Fuel Payment claim forms for this winter is 30 March 2009.