SCoSS is pleased to present its report on the draft Winter Heating Assistance (Low Income) (Scotland) Regulations 2022 (the ‘draft Regulations’) to the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament. The Regulations will establish Low Income Winter Heating Assistance (Low Income Winter Heating Assistance), a form of winter heating assistance within the scope of section 30 of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018.
Low Income Winter Heating Assistance will replace and build on an existing UK benefit, Cold Weather Payment (CWP). The two forms of assistance have the common purpose of providing additional financial support with winter energy costs. However, the Scottish Government’s thinking on the devolved replacement for CWP has evolved since a 2019 policy position paper envisaged the creation of a payment called ‘Cold Spell Heating Assistance.’ This stated; ‘The new benefit will be designed and delivered based upon the existing CWP. We have no plans to change the current eligibility for this benefit or to change the amount of benefit paid.’
This position had changed by the time a public consultation commenced on the new payment, now labelled LIWHA. The draft Regulations broadly mirror the consultation proposals. They show continuity in the criteria used to determine the groups of people who can qualify for a payment, but there are important differences in the criteria used to determine whether, when and in what amount an award should be made.
At present, people are eligible for a £25 CWP from the UK Government if they are in receipt of certain benefits and the average temperature in their area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days. A network of 96 weather stations across the UK is used to measure average temperatures. Between 1 November 2021 to 31 March 2022, 13,000 CWPs were made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and all of these payments were made to people who live in Scotland.
The introduction of LIWHA will move support from multiple payments under CWP to a one-off payment each winter. The draft Regulations provide the legislative basis for the introduction of LIWHA to replace the UK Government’s CWP in Scotland, making provision in respect of:
- Eligibility rules for determining entitlement to LIWHA including the use of a qualifying week during which an individual must have been in receipt of a qualifying benefit/premium (detailed in Annex 3) and resident in Scotland (Regulation 4).
- Matters of procedure for determining entitlement to LIWHA including that the Scottish Government must, without receiving an application, make a determination of an individual’s entitlement (Regulations 5 to 9).
- The amount of LIWHA that is to be given to individuals who are eligible for assistance which is an annual payment of £50. This can be made to another person where the Scottish Government considers appropriate (Regulations 10 and 11).
In carrying out our scrutiny, we drew on analyses of stakeholder responses to the Scottish Government’s consultation on LIWHA, the Scottish Government’s response to the consultation and research carried out to ask members of the Scottish Government’s Social Security Experience Panels for their views on the key policy options for the new benefit.
We also carried out some consultation with representative bodies to further consider their views on the draft regulations, particularly given the increasing impact of the cost of living crisis since Scottish Government consultation responses were received, caused in part by significant rises in energy prices. Comments from external stakeholders (Annex 2) have been incorporated throughout the body of this report and SCoSS would like to thank all those who participated for their useful input.
 Pension Credit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit and Support for Mortgage Interest.