The joy of Christmas often brings with it great expenses as we start buying gifts and preparing for a feast. Keeping on top of finances is important for everyone, but especially those relying on benefits to get through the winter months.
With many people already having been affected by the £20 cut to Universal Credit and with coronavirus support such as furlough and the self-employed income support scheme grants coming to an end, budgets may be tighter this Christmas.
But there are some major changes to benefits happening in the next month that will help take some of the financial pressure off. Here are five of them.
What changes to benefits and Universal credit are being introduced before Christmas?
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Early Christmas payments
This year, Christmas is on a Saturday, meaning replacement bank holidays are held on Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 for both Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
This means anyone who gets paid on bank holiday dates will receive their benefits on December 24, the Friday before Christmas.
Similarly, if you are due to be paid anytime between 1-3 January you will be paid on Friday, December 31.
Working tax credits are changing
During the pandemic, people could claim working tax credit without making the HMRC aware of the number of hours they worked. But from November 25, you will need to declare any changes to working hours to HMRC or face a fine of £300.
Christmas bonus for claimants
Certain benefit claimants will receive a tax-free £10 bonus. To be eligible for this bonus, you need to qualify for specific benefits during the qualifying week in the first full week of December.
There’s no need for any extra application to receive the bonus, and the payment is usually made just before Christmas.
Some of the benefits include carer’s allowance, disability living, PIP, state pension, widow’s pension. See the full list of those eligible for the Universal Credit Christmas bonus.
New benefit fraud checks
The DWP has introduced new measures to tackle fraud and verify claimants who live in the UK. Under these new rules, Universal Credit claimants will be asked to take a photo outside their home and next to their street sign, as well as with a copy of their local newspaper.
These new checks have been described by the DWP as a last resort that have only been requested from a “small number” of applicants and that claimants can request an in-person assessment if they are able to submit the required evidence for whatever reasons.
More people eligible for Universal Credit
From December 1 there will be changes introduced to the taper rate, which will mean that employed claimants can get more from the Universal Credit.
The taper rate will be reduced from 65 percent to 55 percent meaning that for every extra £1 earned, the benefit payment will be reduced by 55p, with claimants gaining back an extra 8p per £1.