As the temperature drops, households up and down the UK are turning on their heating for the first time – but for many it will bring further financial hardship during the cost of living crisis.
As inflation remains high, driven by food and fuel prices, people with already stretched household budgets are wondering how they will pay to keep their homes warm in the winter months.
They will be helped by the drop in the energy price cap on October 1, which has reduced the typical household bill to £1,923, compared to £2,074 previously – however, this is still more than 50 per cent higher than the level before from the crisis and will do little to help many pay their bills.
But there is help out there for millions of people.
Here we explain the government schemes created for households, who can apply and how:
When is the winter fuel allowance paid?
Those born before 25 September 1957 could receive between £250 and £600 to pay for heating in the winter season under the Winter Fuel Payment.
Those who qualify will receive a letter in October or November showing how much they will receive, with the amount given increased by a cost-of-living pensioner payment.
Most get the grant, which is available to those on the State Pension, Pension Credit, Carer's Allowance and Income Support. Those who have not received the payment before and do not have the state pension should apply.
To be eligible, people must have lived in the UK for at least one day during the qualifying week from 18 to 24 September. For more information on who is eligible, click here.
Anyone who thinks they should be eligible for the grant but hasn't received a letter should contact the Winter Fuel Payments Centre.
Payment for cold winter
Households can receive £25 every time the average temperature in their area is, or is forecast to be, 0C or below for seven consecutive days between 1 November and 31 March under the Cold Winter Payment.
To apply, people must be in receipt of Pension Credit, Income Support, Income-related Jobseeker's Allowance, Income-related Work and Support Allowance, Universal Credit or Mortgage Interest Support. You can see full eligibility here.
Payment will be made to the same bank or building that receives benefit or pension payments.
Those living in Scotland cannot receive the payment but may be eligible for a £55.05 winter heating payment regardless of the weather. Eligibility is the same as the cold weather payment and the qualifying week is November 6th and 12th. Payments are made in February and March.
Warm house discount
The Warm Home Discount will take £150 off a household's electricity bill for the winter season, running from the start of October until 24 March.
Energy providers participating in the scheme should automatically receive the discount. They include people on the Guaranteed Credit component of Pension Credit or on a low income and high energy costs.
People can also qualify if their family income falls below a certain threshold and they receive either Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit.
In Scotland, people on a low income must meet their energy supplier's criteria for the scheme.
Those with prepaid or postpaid meters can also qualify and should be given a voucher by their electricity provider.
The program is not available in Northern Ireland.
Anyone who doesn't receive a letter but thinks they qualify should call the Warm Home Discount helpline on 0800 030 9322 before 29 February 2024.
Children's Winter Heating Payment
In Scotland only, the Child Winter Heating Payment is a grant of £235.70 for families with children and young people up to the age of 19 who are in receipt of eligible benefits.
The benefits they must receive to be eligible include the higher rate of Child Disability Payment or Child Disability Living Allowance and the increased rate of Personal Independence Daily Payment or Adult Disability Daily Payment.
Families should receive a letter confirming they are eligible along with the money in their bank or building accounts. The payment is per child, not per household – so families could receive more than one payment.