Planned changes to the UK benefits system under the Conservative government will be going ahead as scheduled in 2020 following their win in the General Election in December 2019. This could mean more money or less money for some claimants due to the upcoming changes.
Some people on benefits will receive a Christmas bonus of £10 in the first week of December. It may only be a small bonus, but every little helps at this expensive and busy time of year. If you do receive the Christmas bonus then you won’t have to pay it back as it isn’t a loan. This one-off payment is tax-free and won’t affect any other benefits.
Who can get the Christmas Bonus?
To be eligible for the Christmas Bonus payment, you must have been a resident in the UK, Europe, or Gibraltar and been receiving one of the following benefits in the qualifying week (1st full week of December):
Armed Forces Independence Payment
Constant Attendance Allowance (Industrial Injuries or War Pensions schemes)
Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (after the first 13 weeks of claiming)
Disability Living Allowance
Incapacity Benefit (long-term rate)
Industrial Death Benefit (widows or widowers)
Pension Credit (guarantee element)
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
State Pension (including Graduated Retirement Benefit)
Severe Disablement Allowance
Unemployability Supplement or Allowance (Industrial Injuries or War Pensions schemes)
War Disablement Pension (at State Pension age)
War Widow’s Pension
Widowed Mother’s Allowance
Widowed Parent’s Allowance
You will not get the Christmas Bonus if you are not entitled to any of these qualifying benefits and you also are not claiming a State Pension.
How do you claim the Christmas Bonus?
If you are eligible for the Christmas Bonus then you should be paid the £10 automatically without having to claim it. The payment should go into whichever account you usually have your benefits paid into. This might show up under “DWP XB” on your bank statement for December. Contact the Jobcentre or the DWP if you should get a payment but don’t.
Will couples get the Christmas Bonus?
If both you and your partner are receiving a qualifying benefit, then you should both be entitled to the Christmas Bonus. You should each get a payment of £10 even if you are married, in a civil partnership, or living together. Your partner could still receive a Christmas Bonus of their own even if they don’t receive a qualifying benefit. This only applies if your partner was also resident and both of you were over State Pension age in the qualifying week, and the only qualifying benefit that you receive is Pension Credit. Call the Jobcentre or Pensions Centre if you only get one.
If you are receiving the State Pension, your payment dates will probably be affected by the Christmas bank holidays. The Pension Credit payment dates are also likely to be amended due to this. Please bear in mind that if your payment is due on a day that is not a bank holiday, then you will still receive the money on this date and should not receive the payment early. The affected Christmas 2019 pension payment dates are as follows.
Early Pension Payment Dates 2019
Wednesday 25th December (Christmas Day)
Tuesday 24th December (Christmas Eve)
Thursday 26th December (Boxing Day)
Tuesday 24th December (Christmas Eve)
Wednesday 1st January (New Year’s Day)
Tuesday 31st December (New Year’s Eve)
If your payment date falls on a bank holiday then you should be paid on the working day before this date instead. Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are not bank holidays and both fall on working days directly before bank holidays this year. This means that even if you do receive an early payment, it will only be 1 day early. It should not disrupt your regular outgoings. Contact the DWP if you do not receive your pension payment.
Pension Winter Fuel Payment
If you are claiming the State Pension and you were born on or before 5th April 1954, then you are eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment. This is a bonus payment from the government to help vulnerable elderly people to pay for heating their homes during the winter. Eligible people should automatically receive a payment of £100 – £300 (depending on their age and circumstances). The payment should arrive in your account from November – December 2019, or by 13th January 2020 at the very latest.
The UK government will be implementing the biggest change to the Blue Badge disabled parking scheme since its inception in 1970 from Friday 30th August 2019. People with less visible disabilities may now be able to access Blue Badges and benefit from accessible parking spaces in the UK.
Who can apply for a Blue Badge now?
This year, the criteria for Blue Badge eligibility will be changing. The UK government is extending access to Blue Badges for people with hidden disabilities and not just immediately visible mobility problems. This will include people with autism, anxiety, or dementia amongst other mental and psychological conditions. As well as individual adults, parents can apply for a Blue Badge if they have a child with one of the newly eligible conditions. Under these new rules, a person qualifies for a Blue Badge if:
They receive 8 or more points in the “moving around” part of the PIP mobility component assessment
They get the PIP mobility component and also receive 10+ points in “planning and following journeys” due to “overwhelming psychological distress” during this activity
They take an assessment deciding whether they can make a journey without the risk of serious harm, considerable psychological distress, or difficulty walking (not just physically)
What are people saying about the new Blue Badge rules?
Many people are happy about these changes because it will make life easier for lots more people. The Minister of State for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, described this change as “a watershed moment” for people with hidden disabilities because it makes it easier for them to be independent. Jane Harris, the director of external affairs at the National Autistic Society, also said that it will be “life-changing” for people with autism especially. Many charities and organizations are praising this development, but are also wary about how well it will work. Ceri Smith from Scope, the charity for disability equality, said that there is more to be done to ensure that there are enough Blue Badge parking spaces for everyone who needs them. Kat Humble of Autistic UK agreed, stating that there is a lot of room left for improvement in this area regarding discrimination and fraud as well. Accordingly, the UK government is providing £1.7 million to councils to help them to cope with the demand for Blue Badge services. There will also be a new task force for cracking down on Blue Badge fraud, which can improve the availability of spaces.
How do you apply for a Blue Badge?
The new rules will apply to Blue Badge applicants from 30th August this year. You can easily apply for a Blue Badge online or renew a Blue Badge online here. However, you must be able to provide scanned images of the required documents and the requested details like your National Insurance Number. You can find out more about other ways to apply for a Blue Badge here. A Blue Badge can cost up to £10-£20 around the UK.
Call the ESA helpline on 0800 055 6688 if you’re eligible to apply for Employment Support Allowance and unable to work.
ESA, or Employment Support Allowance, is a government benefit to help people who are not able to work due to illness or disability. Or if they do want to work, ESA can help them with getting work if they are able to. If you are eligible for the new benefit Universal Credit, then you might not be able to claim ESA. You can apply for ESA whether you are working or not. This is a guide on how to apply for Employment Support Allowance.