Universal Credit warning: DWP confirms payment dates will be changing over Christmas

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The DWP has urged Universal Credit, PIP and other benefit claimants to be ready for the upcoming Christmas period as payment dates may be upended. Usually, where payment dates fall on a bank holiday, they will be is\sued on the first working day beforehand.

Christmas bank holidays

The DWP noted there will be a number of changes over the coming weeks given where Christmas and new year’s day falls this year. Christmas Day and Boxing Day both fall on a Saturday and Sunday in 2021, meaning their bank holidays will be moved to Monday (December 27) and Tuesday (December 28).

Additionally, New Year’s Day falls on a Saturday, so the bank holiday will be moved to Monday, January 3, 2022. With all of these changes, the DWP has urged claimants to get prepared.

It said: “Benefits are usually paid straight into your bank, building society or credit union account.

“If your payment date is on a weekend or a bank holiday you’ll usually be paid on the working day before. This may be different for tax credits and Child Benefits.

“Some payments will be made earlier if they’re due between December 27, 2021 and January 4, 2022.

“Tell the office that pays your benefit if you do not get your payment on the day it’s scheduled.”

When will payments come through?

For all benefits, if they are meant to fall on December 27 or 28, they will actually be paid on December 24. There is also slight variation for December 29.

If Universal Credit claimants are meant to be paid on December 29, their payments will remain unchanged but for all other benefits the income will come through on December 24.

All payments due on January 3 will come through on December 31. Universal Credit will also be paid on January 4 but for Scottish claimants, this may be brought forward to December 31.

State benefits are also paid in different schedules. Universal Credit usually comes through once a month, whereas Employment and Support Allowance is paid once every two weeks. Generally, most benefits are paid either once every two or four weeks.

When a person claims a benefit for the first time, they will be asked how they want their money to be paid. They will be asked for bank, building society or credit union account details when they claim. They’ll only be able to be paid in a different way if they have problems opening or managing an account.

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Post Office Card Accounts

Some benefit claimants may receive payments into a Post Office card account (POCA) but this option will be closing. While POCAs were meant to be closing in November 2021, the DWP announced in September that the deadline would be extended to November 2022.

The DWP explained this extension was due to the pandemic and it would allow everyone affected to have time to make alternative arrangements.

The Government confirmed it would be writing to all customers who receive payments into a POCA, telling them the service is ending and encouraging those who are able to open a bank account to do so.

Those who remained unable to access such services will be migrated onto a new Payment Exception Service, which would allow them to choose how they receive their payments.

Guy Opperman, the Minister for Pensions, said: “Whilst the vast majority of pensions and benefits are paid directly into peoples’ bank accounts, some people prefer to collect their payments over the counter at their local Post Office.

“This extra time means we can support our most vulnerable customers to move to the payment method that will suit them best – even if that means making sure they can still get cash via the Post Office using a card from the new Payment Exception Service.”

The DWP explained under the new Payment Exception Service, benefit claimants will be able to choose how they receive their payments. These methods include the delivery of digital vouchers via a SMS, an email or a unique barcode displayed on a mobile phone.

In addition, all customers who are migrated from POCA to the new service will receive a reusable mag stripe plastic card, which can be used to receive their benefits in cash from more than 28,000 PayPoint retail outlets or 11,500 Post Office branches.

It should be noted that while the DWP extended the POCA scheme, HMRC elected to end its usage on December 1. This affected claimants of benefits managed by HMRC which included Child Benefit or Tax Credits.

Benefit calculators

With all of these changes, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with one’s options. Fortunately, free-to-use benefit calculators can be found online to help with this.

These independent calculators can be used to help people understand what benefits they could get, how they could be claimed and what will happen to payments if the claimant starts working.

The calculators are anonymous and have replaced the Government’s Benefits Adviser service.

While the Government itself does not provide the calculators, suitable options can be found with Policy in Practice, entitledto or Turn2us.

When using these tools, claimants will need to have certain information at the ready. This includes details on their savings, income, existing benefits, outgoings and Council Tax bills.

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