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Winter Fuel Payments for Pensioners Living Abroad

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 2 Feb 2021 | 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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uk heating allowance is for uk permanent residents who qualify .for those who freely choose to live in another country permantly or just the winter monthsIT STOPS and thats the end of it . the govt should have a system in place to identify these heat allowsnce spongers.
Olly - 2-Feb-21 @ 12:49 PM
When pensioners live abroad whether its hot or cold in that country usually have to pay their own medical bills etc. The government saves a fortune because of this. They dont have to fork out for housing benefits, medical fees or medicines or transport costs, over the year this sums up to a lot of cash. If the government didnt pay out so much aid to third world countries etc. this money could be used to aid those in need in the U.K. If you live in a hot country your electric bills are high because of the need to use air conditioning so its not as easy or as cheap as people may think who have never lived in a really hot climate.
zero - 21-Dec-20 @ 12:24 PM
I paid into the system all my working life, at 60 I got my pension but I soon found that I could not live on it in UK, as I have Emphysema doing hairdressing was difficult so I moved to Bulgaria where I could afford to live, I have paid for all my many medications and any hospital care that I have needed, I have NEVER asked UK for anything not unemployment benefit or Housing money...NOTHING, it is very cold here in the winter, can be -20c at times and to get the heating allowance was a God send but like everything else the Government has said "well you left the UK so your problem"but if I was from any other country I would I am sure get all the help I needed.............just shows that UK don't care for it's citizens.
moaner - 30-Nov-20 @ 9:37 AM
My word there are some bitter and jealous comments going on.My husband and I both over 70.Chose to retire to France.We receive our UK pensions because we paid in for over 50 years.We get our entitlement as do others from other countries who live in UK.We get no charity and nothing we have no rights to.We are British citizens and where we choose to live is our business.It is the bitter nasty attitudes of some of you here we are glad to be away from!
HappyL - 25-Nov-20 @ 6:44 AM
I think it's disgusting that those that left the UK were still recieving payments of any kind..... makes no odds if you've paid into the system all this year's. ..that doesn't make you entitled
Jazzjb46 - 29-Jul-20 @ 6:27 PM
I have just moved to Costa Blanca North, we are 77years old. It is very cold here from October to February/march. We paid into the uk system for 50years, should we be allowed to have heating allowance.
Sundancer - 15-Feb-20 @ 5:08 PM
I would like to know how people who go to live abroad can still claim benefits and pensions and yet when I want to go abroad for 2 weeks I have my money stopped why
Jan - 14-Feb-20 @ 3:10 PM
Quite right to WTF Why should we pay for those bastard sat in the Sun
Mick - 13-Feb-20 @ 1:42 PM
Wot about somebody at the age of 63 working full time and struggling to pay a mortgage and all the bills not able to claim when people on benefits claim it all....so unfair
Sheila - 9-Feb-20 @ 8:42 PM
There's a lot o UK retirees that went to live in Canada, Australia, Malaysia and a lot of other countries. When their working days were done They don't even get the early Pension increases never mind the heating allowance.
Thethen - 2-Feb-20 @ 11:26 AM
The information about winter fuel payment on this site is incorrect.
Daisyworld - 27-Jan-20 @ 11:44 PM
I do not think people who used to live in the UK and chose to live abroad should be entitled to get the winter fuel payment
Liz - 22-Jan-20 @ 12:23 AM
Hi, as far as I'm aware those living in European Economic Countries will be entitled to the Winter Fuel Allowance (WFA) should they be of State pension age. The amount can change depending on if they live with someone / the benefits that they may receive and where they live (eg. Someone living in a Care Home for a period of time before the qualifying week and receives Pensions Credit, will not be entitled to any WFA). If anyone believes they are entitled to the payment but haven't received it, (or the full entitlement, as someone else has commented), you should really get in touch either via gov.uk or using a contact number.
MDS - 31-Dec-19 @ 9:32 AM
Those who moved abroad chose to leave the UK.I live in the north of Scotland where temperatures can be well below 0 for most of the winter so do rely on WWA. Those who live abroad chose to go so in my opinion don't deserve to get benefits from the UK
Humpty54 - 27-Dec-19 @ 8:18 AM
Lived iN SPAIN for 11 years. Had CH installed firdt year as its very cold in the house from Oct to Mar. So cold even my pool is too cold to swim in. Like others i paid into UK system for 40 never claimed one benefit and still pay rax on my military pension.
Ochthenoo - 13-Dec-19 @ 7:15 AM
So what if those abroad get WWA.How many millions per year does the British government save in unclaimed benefits, just by not automatically notifying those who are entitled to claim.If we leave the EU,this benefit will be reassessed and I'm sure will be no longer available to anyone, just so government can save easy money.
Freckflyer - 10-Dec-19 @ 7:46 PM
I am 66 years old and had to wait an extra 5 years to get my pension and being disabled I have applied for extra benefits some I get but for this helping hand I cant get the whole amount as someone else already gets it. She has lived in Spain for at least 4 years but now I have moved in 3 years ago we still get her post and she gets several benefits I have got to fight.now to get the extra money I'm entitled to.
Nana - 10-Dec-19 @ 4:04 PM
I have recently moved to Spain and agree it is warmer but I only have my basic pension and would welcome the winter fuel allowance to offset the high electricity bills in the summer months when there are also health hazards for those that can’t afford to put their air conditioning on. In the hottest months it is on day and night and help towards it, bearing in mind that I have paid into the system all my working life the same as other pensioners and in some cases more, would greatly help.
Kat - 20-Nov-19 @ 12:44 PM
The winter fuel allowance was introduced many years ago so that pensioners in the UK could have extra money to cover their heating bills in the cold. I don't care if you now live in Spain or any other warm country and that you paid your National Insurance contributions all your life. You chose to go and live in a country that doesn't know what cold is. It is right it should only be paid to UK citizens.BOB
LFC - 26-Oct-19 @ 8:27 PM
I am 73 years old and have lived in france for 15 years, I paid full stamp all my working life so why shouldn't we get winter fuel.in la creuse where I live our winters are very cold sometimes colder than UK.we are not a burden on nhs,we pay for our health care out here.I think it is wrong the way it was decided to stop ex pats getting it.
Kaz - 26-Oct-19 @ 8:18 PM
Many senior citizens in uk can’t even think of moving abroad to live its to expensive for them so the ones how have no choice but remain at home are the priority full stop !!!!
HAT - 26-Oct-19 @ 6:22 PM
Those of us who retire and stay in the UK continue to pay taxes into the system,eg Income tax,VAT,fuel tax etc plus we pay ourfuel bills which generates profits which in turn provides more revenue to the UK tax man. Whereas those of you who chose to live abroad make no further contribution into the UK economy and therefore I do not see why you should expect to receive any extra payment from the UK government over and above the pension you accumulated during your working life,which you are entitled to receive. I also think all those that choose to live abroadshould not be entiltledto NHS treatment for the same reasons given above.After all, I have paid for car insurance for 50 years,but the moment I stop paying it I am no longer insured.
Would never live any - 26-Oct-19 @ 5:41 PM
I believeyou move abroad you don't get the allowance, come all you who say it's cold in winter, no way is it as cold as uk, that's why you moved out there.
Lc - 26-Oct-19 @ 5:06 PM
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
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