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Winter Fuel Payments for Pensioners Living Abroad

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 1 Feb 2019 | comments*Discuss
Winter Fuel Payments Abroad Winter Fuel

Please note that since this article was first written, winter fuel payments for pensioners living abroad are no longer available. That in itself has caused some controversy as you will see from the comments at the end of the original article (which follows here).

Most of us have become familiar with winter fuel payments being made by the UK government to people over the age of 60 who qualify for them to help them towards the additional cost of heating their homes over the colder British winter months. What many of us have only recently realised, however, is that people who qualify but who now live abroad are also entitled to receive these same payments too. It was recently revealed that over £10 million has so far been paid out to people for winter fuel payments but who no longer live in the UK. But it is an issue that has become very controversial since the figures were released.

How do You Qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment in the First Instance?

Firstly, you do not need to apply for a winter fuel payment. If you qualify, they are automatically sent out to you, although if you think you qualify but have not received a payment, you may need to fill out a claim form. To qualify, a person needs to be over 60 and in receipt of a state pension or some other form of social security entitlement (excluding Housing Benefit, Child Benefit or Council Tax Benefit). You need to qualify by a set date earlier in the year to receive payment for that coming winter and payments are usually made from November onwards.

Why Has This Issue Caused Controversy?

Firstly, the winter fuel payments were initially introduced to help alleviate financial hardship for the elderly whose health could be put at risk by them deciding not to keep their heating on for long periods over the colder British winter months because, in doing so, they might not be able to afford it given that their heating bills would become inevitably higher and yet their incomes might not be able to cover the additional costs. It is not a ‘means tested’ payment. Therefore, no matter how rich or poor you are has no bearing on you receiving it, as long as you meet the criteria. Therefore, some people have been ‘up in arms’ over the likes of those who meet the criteria but who have left the UK to escape from the British winter to go and live in sunnier and warmer climates such as Spain, whereby opponents argue that the weather is warm there anyway and so those receiving the payments abroad do not, in fact, need it.

And yes, it is true that many older people have decided to ‘up sticks’ and move from the UK to the likes of Spain for this very reason. In fact, when the figures were announced, it was residents in Spain and France who formed the most significant proportion of those who receive the payments. That said, there are many ex UK residents who now live in other countries within the EU where winters are either equally or even colder than those which we experience in the UK. It’s also important to remember that even in certain areas of France and Spain, winters (though maybe not as harsh as our own) can and do increase the cost of heating bills over the winter months. The argument, however, is often cited at those people who live in areas such as the Costa del Sol or the likes of Mallorca - both popular places to retire to and where severely harsh winters are very few and far between. Secondly, with the UK experiencing a spell of some of the steepest increases in the cost of electricity and gas over recent years, this has outraged opponents even further who’d argue that surely the payments being made to those residing in the likes of southern Spain do not really need the extra money for fuel and it could be put to far better use in helping to assist those back here in the UK who are suffering from financial hardship. And, with the scale of recent gas and electricity price hikes, this has only made the situation here an even more difficult burden to cope with.

Why is This Then ‘Allowed’ to Happen?

Basically, the freedom of movement of people to live, work and receive benefits throughout the EEA (European Economic Area), of which it has to be mentioned that, as UK residents, we have also benefited from in terms of being permitted to work and live in countries which we weren’t previously automatically entitled to do so, has meant that, under EU law, benefits which have been acquired in one member state are equally entitled to receive them if they move to another member state within the EEA, bar a few exceptions to the rule.

Whatever side of the ‘fence’ you stand on with regard to this issue, the fact is that if you do meet the criteria and live in an EEA country, you are probably entitled to receive winter fuel payments. It’s also important to take a wider view that not all pensioners living abroad reside in countries where it’s continually warm and not all of them are well off financially.

To find out more about entitlements to the Winter Fuel Payment scheme, you should visit the Pension Service website.

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I have paid into the system since I left school at 15.Worked all my life until I retired to Spain 17 years ago. We have no central heating and temperatures here have been as low as 5c during January and February even minus1 on a number of occasions. I wish the people making the rules re who doesn't need WWA. Would spend a month in Spain inJanuary in a normal house NOT A HOTEL IN BENIDORM and then say warming allowance not needed.
Hudsy - 1-Feb-19 @ 10:45 PM
My Husband and I have lived in Spain for 33 years now, We did receive the Fuel allowance for a very short time a couple of years ago. which was very nice and useful to top up the cost of heating in the wintertime. But it did not last very long, when the British Mps decided to take it away from us. The Houses here are not built for cold weather, I dred the wintertime coming around every year. My Husband and I are both in our 80s,and feel the cold, it seems colder than ever this year . Also my Husband is suffering from Cancer for the second time. I feel like we have been abandoned.
- - 10-Jan-19 @ 1:38 PM
Just a thought!!! Do UK pensioners living in Gibraltar get their WFA??? Anyone know the answer?
Ped - 4-Jan-19 @ 12:07 PM
I have worked and paid my national insurance all my life in the Uk. Now i live in Poland, which is much colder than the Uk. Yes it is my choice to live abroad, but is my right to be paid WFA
ady - 29-Dec-18 @ 12:12 PM
I have lived in Germany for 40 years---paid taxes there and in uk, until retirement in 2006.After retirement I applied every year for WFA--even had tribunals--turned down every time --not entitled---though Munich is a far colder place in Winter than uk. Now coming back to uk---where do I stand?Not here for qualifying week---in Germany-- . Am I entitled as living in a (cold) EEA Country? Have to apply---and see!
Mackem - 13-Nov-18 @ 9:17 PM
As usual the British government kick those of us who have worked all our lives in UK and Paid into the system. When people from other countries arrive in UK they are given Everything needed it's scandalous when they have Never paid a penny into the system.i moved to France in July 2018as it is much cheaper than UK...but still will need pay heating costs ...it's well past the time Every British UK resident put their hands up and say Enough is Enough to this government or any other elected body..who run the country...so it's well past the time the UK government's look after their Own people first.......
Celt - 24-Oct-18 @ 7:54 AM
two points: Many foreigners whomove to uk, claim benefits, having never paid a penny in, and there are foriegners claiming child benefit for their kids thatlive in Poland or Germany! So to pay such benefits to such people ,and then NOT to pay benefits to people who have lived and worked in UK all there lives andpaid in for 50 years is simply perverse. If anyone is entitled tohandouts, its those that have contributed.. Plus, its true you dont need to pay for central heating in Spain, but you DO need Air Con, and electricity is very expensive. So paying Winter fuel to us is for two months is in fact a bargain when we have to run air con 8 months a year. If Uk wants to save money on handouts, try cutting off payments to those who havent ever paid in - how about members of a certain foriegn religion who have multiple wives in multiple council houses, and claim benefits for ALL of them?
lionheart - 14-Oct-18 @ 5:32 PM
It’s not the case of being jealous!! The money the government are giving to these expats could be put to better use!! In the UK we have thousands of homeless people on the streets and in winter they need some warmth and help!! This money should go to the homeless!! Stop judging the homeless!! We dont know why they are homeless in the first place!! Come on UK get it right for once!! Means test this Allowance and put it to better use!! Rather than giving these expats more money to spend on living in another country where it’s warm!!!
UKcitizen - 4-Oct-18 @ 9:46 AM
I know someone who lives a great life in Spain where it’s warm all year round. Never has his heating on!! Plenty of money to live on!! Comes back here for NHS treatment!! Gets Winter Fuel Allowance!! Don’t understand how or why he should be getting this payment!! I think it’s disgraceful that they walk away from this country and expect to get the same benefits as we do!! It should be means tested for genuine people that are suffering hardship!! I’ve worked all my life and live on state pension! So I’m entitled to it!!
Ukcitizen - 4-Oct-18 @ 9:32 AM
You qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment if both the following apply:
you were born on or before 5 November 1953
you lived in the UK for at least one day during the week of 17 to 23 September 2018 - this is called the ‘qualifying week’
If you did not live in the UK during the qualifying week, you might still get the payment if both the following apply:
you live in Switzerland or a European Economic Area (EEA) country
you have a genuine link with the UK social security system, such as having lived or worked in the UK for most of your life
You can not get the payment if you live in Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal or Spain because the average winter temperature is higher than the warmest region of the UK.
ColderCountries - 28-Aug-18 @ 11:33 AM
What nasty spiteful jealous people we have here. Pensioners should get their WFA where ever they live.I suspect those jealous one's have not worked and paid into the system much . I know many peoplewho moved abroad because they found it cheaper to live. The Countries such as Spain France and Portugal get very cold in the winter.The government are a disgrace the way they have taken the WFA off certain countries. I always thought discrimination was against the law.
Curlytop - 27-Aug-18 @ 2:32 PM
I am astounded by the spiteful comments on here. Whether you live abroad or in the UK each pensioner should be treated the same. I suspect the majority of those who say that pensioners abroad should not be given the WFA have never worked or paid much into the system. I know many ordinary pensioners that have moved to Portugal because they cannot afford to live in the UK. Whingers should just get on with their own lives. Pensioners I know have worked and paid into the system for years. They should be entitled to WFA where ever they choose to live. What nasty spiteful people we have here.
Curlytop - 27-Aug-18 @ 2:27 PM
I hear a lot of what sounds like jealous crap from UK residents about people who have chosen to live abroad. I live in Belgium and receive a UK pension based on my contributions when I was working as a UK civil servant. For the record, it's as cold here as in East Anglia where I hail from. In fact I've never asked for the fuel allowance. However I have paid large amounts to the UK in tax over the years and haven't used the National Health service or any other service since the late 1970's. So here is at least one UK expat who is financing the UK resident moaners!
frudebaker - 26-Feb-18 @ 11:24 AM
Living in Western France for 10 plus years. We have seen some cold winter's, using wood for heating and oil (costly) We have been shafted by the UKGov, re WFA. How can you calculate a countries winter temps when you includeoversees territories. We have paid all our working lives to the system and now when we really need it it's taken away. Living on modest pensions only. We don't detract from anyone elses payment in the UK. Are they getting more because we don't get any? Shame on you UK politicians.
Yan - 23-Feb-18 @ 11:24 PM
My Sister who is now 85 years of age and lives on her own in Washington USA where the weather is colder is not allowed the winter fuel allowance benefit. She receives a British Pension and was born into our English family in London. We are English heredity as are our ancesters. She is clearly not being treated fairly in this instanceCAR
Terry - 27-Dec-17 @ 3:11 PM
I too moved to France back in Jan 2005 but my original plan was when in my early 20s as I used to tour France and Spain by motorcycle, I feel in love with the country and its people. In the days just prior to Christmas 1999 I was taken seriously ill and was rushed to hospital. This was as a result of smoking, I also found that the cold could also have a serious affect my breathing and the damp UK winter atmosphere would make it even worse. This was the start of my planning and searching as to where best for me to go and settle, I chose an area in the mid-western region of France. In 2000 I received my first W.F. P. whilst living in the UK and was receiving it until last year when it suddenly stopped.This £200 fuel payment was around 10% of my total winter fuel bill and therefor was a big help, this region does get very cold during the winter months other- wise why would I be shelling out 2000€ for heating fuel plus 50€ for half a ton of wood for the fire. I worked from the age of 15 in 1961, without claiming or sponging any unemployment benefits all the way through until I took early retirement in 2002. So I believe that this justifies my W.F.P as I paid all my taxes and more being a single man. I must say that whirlwind and George don’t really know what they are talking about. Re health care and W.F.P, we all paid for the health care through our taxes so you are not paying for us folks in Europe as we expats have contributed to the health system all our working lives. You also say that everyone over a certain age in the UK should have W.F.P, but not expats in the EU well that then becomes a matter of equality which is in direct conflict with the Human Rights Act.
Peewee - 23-Sep-17 @ 2:18 PM
I moved to France after 25 years working in the NHS, disabled 50% from work accident. Still pay tax on my meagre UK pension, so this cessation of WFP was a blow.I live alone with my cat after my wife of 33 years abandoned me for another life as my disability progressed. I live in Puy de Dome, altitude 950/1000 metres. Winters are long and cold, minus 12=15 normal.I sleep fully clothed with gloves and balaclava.Day times the same. My cat climbs into my coat to get warm.The WFP almost covered the wood needed to heat during the 6 months cold period, and I could heat food on the fire. 80 years old this year. Compare this to the life of the selfserving and corrupt politicians who defraud the taxpayers with inflated salaries, perks beyond measure and crown it with claims for expenses that are ludicrous and outright criminal., (interestingly, to validate this message to get it postedI had to type in the word MUG)
djk - 5-Jun-17 @ 10:48 AM
As As a Brit im fed up with expats moaning about lack of this ad that from the U.K. once they have left us. I suggest that john from spain looks at how many millions of pounds we pay the spanish for your health care ,before stateing the spanish give you free oxegen. It will be interesting to see if the constant stream of ex pats who regualy return to u.k for ther medical and dental treatment for free. Most of the new roads you drive on is paid for from our contrabution to the e.u. as spain pays nothing in. If you think this country is doing you all down wait untill we are out of the e.u. and your adopted countrys have to balance there books. George.
George - 20-May-17 @ 3:57 PM
Well if you quit UK, quit moaning, you made a decision to go to a better place. Well stop trying to live off the country you decided was not good enough to maintain your lifestyle for whatever reason. Yes I sadly agree your pension pot should remain yours, IF you have worked for over 30 years. And built your own pot up. I agree no WFA for expats.
whirlwind - 17-May-17 @ 1:24 PM
I forgot one thing.The WFA is actually a right and should not be taken away.It was granted to pensioners by Gordon Brown when a derisory 50p increase in the State Pension caused an outcry.It was regarded as part of the pension.Who stands up for pensioners now in UK?As I thought .....no-one.
Her Ladyship - 26-Feb-17 @ 1:58 PM
I live in SW France and have just had to order my third delivery of wood this winter. I have oil central heating which I can't afford to use.I live in a valley close to a river and temperatures in the Winter are regularly minus during the day.My husband died a few months ago and over half of my income has gone.I worked in UK and paid my taxes all my life,never claiming a penny of benefits.French friends here say it is not possible to live on a UK basic state pension,theirs is a lot higher.Iam also fed up of hearing about all the well off pensioners.What about free child care for grandchildren and dipping into our hard earned savings to bail out family debts and house purchase?The UK is a disgrace.I think they would like all pensioners to shoot themselves. My husband was in the forces all his working life.For what ? To be treated like a burden on the state.Shame on you UK .
Her Ladyship - 26-Feb-17 @ 1:49 PM
We moved to Spain as I have COPD and was told the warmer climate would extend my life span...This year 2017 I have spent euro upon euro on heating and told by the UK no heating allowance as Spain is a warm Country - they lie - its blooming cold.Oxygen at home, Oxygen Portable from the Spanish health service - NOTHING from the UK whereI and my wife worked for 50 year plus and where we are still paying tax////////////////////// Thankyou UK
mike - 3-Feb-17 @ 5:47 PM
On waking today, see the news, snowing hard, heating on for the last 4 weeks all the time, but no heating allowance why because we chose to live in Spain, warmer they the Government say, they want to come and live here or perhaps pay a visit to the Costa Blanca, please we have paid in all our lives, well since leaving school, please have a thought for all expats in all the countries you stopped the payment to.
law shirl - 18-Jan-17 @ 10:17 AM
Returned to UK from Spain on 13th Oct2016, Got a letter from DWP saying not here for qualifying period in September so no getting WFA, I will however be here during the cold winter months here in Scotland. I did not know about the changes to the rules as was not sent any info from the government. Absolutely ridiculous and not surprising from a Tory government. All you good people of England never seem to learn and continue to vote for them. This debacle affects the poorer retired people of Britain, not the wealthy, come on England, get you voting act together,
terry - 12-Dec-16 @ 10:48 PM
My husband died March 2014 the last year the allowance was paid out I was informed that when working I had not paid enough full stamps and my husband had paid into serps. I am now 79 ,an am disabled in France. I was also told I didn't, t have any connection in England although I have a pension and two bank accounts,not much in either.
Lilian Scriven - 7-Apr-16 @ 3:50 PM
I live in southern France and like many of you, I am disgusted by the way the Goverment has fiddled the average winter temperatures for France by including the outre Mer (wonderfully tropical islands like Guadaloupe etc).Leaving these tropical islands out, the average winter temperature for France is colder than that of southern UK. Adding them in of course, means that payment can be terminated for over 5,000 entitled expats in France. Italy, on the other hand, has an average winter temperature one degree WARMER than that of southern UK.I challenged this with the DWP, and the answer was they had allowed for "margins of error".I am not sure that once one has qualified for WFP (those of us being born before 1953 with state pension etc) that is can be taken away.Does anyone know? I also understood that the stopping of WFA was to be challenged in the European Court, but only AFTER payment had been stopped.All information gladly received.
Trish - 2-Feb-16 @ 5:12 PM
i moved to portugal 2 years ago with my husband who is portuguese i lost my dad the year before so we fetched my mum over with usshe is a pensioner and paid her taxes till she received her pensionand she has not received her cold weather payment this year as alot of expats are saying it is not always warm here and it is very cold in the winter months so why has this goverment decided to take away what belongs rightfully to all pensiners i dont see this goverment complaining about paying benifits to migrants family and children who do not live in the uk and for all we know dont even existand those who get benifits that are not even in the uk have never paid a penny into uk system but expat pensioners are being disciminatedagainst so you tell me mr camaron and mr osbourne how you think that your system is fair to the people who have made their country great
shorty - 19-Dec-15 @ 4:16 AM
I have read the letters of other ex pats and have to agree with them. I live in Spain as I cannot sell my house here even though I want to return to England and am actually quite desperate to get back near my family. I lost my husband over here and with him died his pension too and now on top of the struggle I already have am now losing any help towards heating. Heating in Spain is expensive and it is very cold at night and in the mornings. Houses in Spain are not built for warmth but to keep cool and even in the summer when it is very hot we still have to pay electricity for air conditioning and electricity over here is very expensive. I think the government is very unfair to discriminate when I have paid all my taxes, national insurance etc etc and so did my parents and their parents. Do I need to go on? Please have another look at this Osborne and Cameron and get your priorities right. .
jenni - 1-Dec-15 @ 3:18 PM
I have read some of the comments about living aboard and it is so true houses are not built to hold the heat and even tough it may be warmer through the day it still gets cold inside the house and electricity is expensive here plus when it is so hot we have to have fans going night and day trying to keep cool.I feel at least I contributed towards what I receive!!.
les - 1-Dec-15 @ 12:46 PM
I have read & taken in all the readers comments. I live in the Costa Blanca south, it is 1015am, the wind is gale force it is sunny but there is no one on the streets, anyone who ventures out are covered it has been windy like this for two days, the nights are 5 to 7 degrees C compared to 9 to11 degrees C in South Wales were I used to live. I am going to contact the people in Brussels & request an appeal against the ruling by the UK govt, I suggest any of you who have had their WLA cancelled.
CJ - 26-Nov-15 @ 9:21 AM
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