Cold weather payments hit weekly high of £20 million
Plunging temperatures have triggered the highest amount of cold weather payments so far this winter.
Some £20.3 million is estimated to have been paid out by the Government in the seven days to February 23.
It beats the previous high of £16.4 million in the week ending December 15.
In total £40.8 million is estimated to have been paid out across Great Britain since the 2017/18 scheme began, far above the amount for 2016/17 (£3.1 million) and 2015/16 (£3.9 million).
The figure is still well below the £141.7 million paid in 2012/13.
But with freezing conditions forecast to continue across the country until at least Saturday, the total for 2017/18 is likely to rise even higher.
The Government's cold weather payment scheme runs each year from November 1 to March 31.
Payments are triggered by data collected by the Met Office from 94 weather stations around Britain.
A sum of £25 is automatically paid to eligible people in every area where a weather station shows the average temperature has dropped, or is forecast to drop, to zero degrees Celsius or below for seven days in a row.
Wednesday's figures, published by the Department for Work and Pensions, show that around 813,000 individuals received a payment in the week ending February 23.
Since the 2017/18 scheme began, £4.0 million is estimated to have been spent on cold weather payments to 80,000 people covered by the Bingley weather station, which includes parts of Burnley, Halifax and Huddersfield.
Some £3.4 million has been spent on 138,000 individuals within the area of Bishopton weather station in Scotland, which covers the cities of Glasgow and Paisley.
A similar amount has gone to 134,000 recipients within the area of Albemarle station, which includes Durham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sunderland.
Under the scheme, payments go to older people in receipt of Pension Credit, along with disabled adults, families with a disabled child or families with a child under five who are in receipt of one of the following benefits: income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Universal Credit.
The money is paid to the recipient within 14 days.