Cost of Living Crisis: Can I Claim the UK’s Winter Fuel Payment if I Live in Spain?

The current Europe-wide cost of living crisis has brought the impact of high fuel prices to the fore, but there have long been various benefits available to Britons from the UK Government to help them get through the long winters in the country. One of these is the winter fuel payment, which is only issued to eligible individuals, and is intended to cover the cost of heating your property in the winter. But can you be eligible for this payment if you live in Spain? Here’s everything you need to know:

What is the Winter Fuel Payment in the UK?

The Winter Fuel Payment is a tax-free benefit issued by the UK Government to help older people (pensioners) in the UK to cover the costs of heating their homes throughout the winter months. To be eligible for the winter fuel payment this year, applicants must have been born before September 26th, 1956.  How much people receive depends on their age and whether anyone else in the household is also eligible, with payments being lower when two eligible applicants are living in the same property, but the amount you will receive is usually between £250 and £600.

Can UK Citizens Living Overseas Claim the Winter Fuel Payment?

The short answer to this question is yes: UK citizens living overseas can claim the winter fuel payment. But only if they are living in what has been determined to be an ‘eligible country’ and, unfortunately, Spain is not included amongst this number. In order to be eligible for winter fuel payments, you must be born before September 26th, 1956, as outlined above, have moved to an eligible country before 1st January 2021, and have a ‘genuine and sufficient’ link to the UK. The phrase ‘genuine and sufficient’ is defined as having family in the UK, or having lived and worked in the UK.

The EU nations that are included on the list of eligible countries include Austria, Germany, Sweden, and Italy. But Spain and Portugal are not on this list. That means that if you live in Spain and meet all of the other criteria, you still can’t claim the UK winter fuel payment because you don’t live in an eligible country.

Why Isn’t Spain Considered an Eligible Country?

The primary reason why Spain isn’t considered to be an eligible country is because it is just too warm. According to the official UK government website, “you cannot 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”. There are some regions in Spain where homeowners never need to turn their heating on, and on the occasions that there are cold spells where many houses in the country tend to get even colder than it is outside, many householders will use just one or two radiator units to heat their homes. Of course, there are parts of Spain (such as the interior and mountainous regions) where winters can be cooler (in fact, some of these regions have temperatures that are colder than the UK average) but these don’t tend to be as popular with expats.

UK citizens living in Spain did used to be able to claim winter fuel payments if they met all of the other eligibility criteria, but this was scrapped in 2015. The main reason why this benefit was revoked was because many UK taxpayers were angry that UK winter fuel payments were going to help people that lived in countries that were generally warmer than the UK. It is likely that, because they did not need to heat their homes, many of these recipients were using their payments for items other than winter fuel.

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