The first Winter Heating Payments are being sent to people across Scotland this week.

Around 400,000 people who are on low incomes are eligible for the new benefit.

This month and next, more than £20m will be distributed to households to help with the higher cost of heating over the winter.

The Winter Heating Payment in Scotland replaces the UK Government’s Cold Weather Payment.

The Winter Heating Payment is an annual £50 payment regardless of how cold it gets.

The previous Cold Weather Payment still in operation in England and Wales requires a drop in temperature for a sustained period before people are eligible.

The new payment is paid through Social Security Scotland and people will get a letter to let them know they are eligible.

Ben Macpherson, Minister for Social Security Scotland, said: “Our new Winter Heating Payment is the thirteenth Scottish Government benefit.

“This year it will provide 400,000 people most in need with a reliable, automatic £50 payment to help towards their heating costs.

“The Payment will reach significantly more people than the benefit it has replaced. On average only 185,000 people received the equivalent Cold Weather Payments from the UK Government over the last seven years - whereas we will pay everyone eligible every year.”