By Daniel Hunter

More money was paid out in cold weather payments in Britain last month than in any other March, government figures have shown.

As temperatures finally begin to rise, figures released today reveal 642,900 payments totalling £16.1m were made to older people and disabled adults and children last month - the most paid out in a Springtime month since records began.

The weather station to generate the most payments was Bingley in West Yorkshire, which triggered 3 times. It resulted in payments of £8m made to an estimated 106,800 people.

However, people living in some areas in the Highlands of Scotland received up to £250 over the course of last winter in cold weather payments - with 10 triggers for the £25 payment made to people living in Braemar, for example.

Only March 2006 was as close, when 543,600 payments were made.

Payment is made automatically when the average temperature at the weather station linked to an eligible person's postcode has been recorded as - or forecast to be - 0 degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days. There are 92 weather stations used in the Cold Weather Payment scheme.

Those on Pension Credit, income-related Employment Support Allowance and families with children under 5 who are in receipt of an income- related benefit are supported by the payments.

"This March has been unseasonably cold, but the most vulnerable in society have been supported through the cold spell," Pensions Minister Steve Webb said.

"Payments of £25 provide real help when the weather bites, so that people haven't had to worry about turning up the heating when the temperatures have plummeted.

"Anyone who thinks they might have missed out can make a claim for pension credit now and have any cold weather payments due backdated for the last three months."

Cold weather payments this winter reached £146.1m - exceeding those made in 2011/12 by £17m. The winter of 2010/11 holds the record for the most cold weather payments made in one season though - standing at £430.8m.

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