12 tips to help you manage your finances over the festive season

Blog - Nicky Rees, Welfare Officer -

This year will bring a different festive period for many, and this can be made harder if you’re experiencing money worries. Here, Nicky, the Trust’s Welfare Officer, shares 12 useful tips to support you to manage your finances at this time of year. They include information about the changes in benefit payment dates, seasonal information that may help you to plan your budget, and how the Trust can help through financial grants and our Helpline.

If you’re a person with CF who is living on a low income, you may already find the winter months particularly hard. This year, worries about coronavirus (COVID-19) and a change from the usual, familiar festive routines are adding new challenges.

As always, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust is on hand to support you. Our helpline and welfare team usually handle an increase in calls and emails in November and December as people try to get their benefits issues sorted before Christmas. We have prepared the following tips to help you through the festive season.

1. Check the benefit payment dates for over Christmas

Financial pressures have increased for many people during the COVID-19 pandemic and with the Christmas period not far away, it's essential to know when money is coming in.

Universal Credit (and other DWP benefits)

Employment Support Allowance, Income Support and Jobseeker’s Allowance are paid ever two weeks, Pension credits are paid every four weeks, and Universal Credit is paid monthly. These benefits are all administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

If your benefits are due on 25, 26, 27 or 28 December, your benefits should be paid on Thursday 24 December.

If your benefits are due on the first of the month (Friday 1 January), your benefits should be paid on Thursday 31 December.

While Monday 4 January is a bank holiday in Scotland, DWP payments due on that date will not change.

If your payment is late, check the payment date on your award notice and contact your bank before contacting DWP.

Tax Credits

Working Tax Credit is provided to boost the income of working people who are on a low income, while Child Tax Credit is paid to help people with the costs of bringing up a child. Tax Credits are administered by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

This list below shows when you will be paid Tax Credits if they are due on Bank Holidays over the Christmas period.

If your payment is late, check the payment date on your award notice and contact your bank before contacting HMRC.

  • Due date: Friday 25 December 2020. Payment date: Thursday 24 December
  • Due date: Monday 28 December 2020. Payment date: Thursday 24 December
  • Due date: Tuesday 29 December 2020. Payment date: Thursday 24 December – Northern Ireland only
  • Due date: Friday 1 January 2021. Payment date: Thursday 31 December
  • Due date: Monday 4 January 2021. Payment date: Thursday 31 December – Scotland only

Child Benefit

Child Benefit is awarded to most people responsible for bringing up a child who is either under 16, or under 20 if they stay in approved education or training.

This list below shows when you will be paid Child Benefit if it is due on Bank Holidays over the Christmas period.

If your payment is late, check the payment date on your award notice and contact your bank before contacting HMRC.

  • Due date: Monday 28 December 2020. Payment date: Thursday 24 December
  • Due date: Tuesday 29th December 2020. Payment date: Wednesday 30th December – Northern Ireland only
  • Due date: Monday 4 January 2021. Payment date: Thursday 31 December – Scotland only
  • Due date: Tuesday 5 January 2021. Payment date: Wednesday 6 January – Scotland only

2. Set a budget (making a list – and checking it twice)

Most benefits payments, if they fall on a weekend or a bank holiday, are paid early. This is good news, however, it does mean the money will have to last a bit longer until the next payment date. Having a clear budget will help you to see how much money you have coming in and what you're spending it on, and budget planners can show you how to make your money go further.

Most of us are feeling under pressure and tempted to spend money that we cannot afford over the festive period. To help stay within budget, The Consumer Council has put together a food and present planner. It’s a great way to reduce impulse buys – helping you to set a budget and stick to it.

3. Ask for an advance payment of Universal Credit (new claims or increases)

Once you apply for Universal Credit it can take five weeks for you to get your first Universal Credit payment.

If you think you won’t have enough money to live on while you wait, you can ask for an ‘advance payment’ of Universal Credit while you're waiting for your first payment. You can also ask for an advance payment if your circumstances have recently changed and you expect your Universal Credit payments to increase.

An advance payment has to be repaid, and your future benefit payments will be reduced until it is paid back in full – usually over a 12-month period.

Find out more about Universal Credit here.

4. Check if you’ll get the Christmas Bonus

The Christmas Bonus is a one-off tax-free £10 payment made before Christmas, paid to people who get certain benefits in the qualifying week. This is normally the first full week of December.

5. See if you are eligible for Cold Weather Payments

If you receive certain benefits, you’ll get £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March.

After each period of very cold weather in your area, you should get a payment within 14 working days. The payment is made if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below for seven consecutive days.

You may get Cold Weather Payments if you’re getting:

  • Pension Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Universal Credit
  • Support for Mortgage Interest

Take a look at the precise eligibility rules.

6. Contact your electricity supplier about Warm Home Discount

You could get £140 off your electricity bill for winter 2020 to 2021 under the Warm Home Discount Scheme. Energy suppliers can provide rebates to households on certain benefits – contact your electricity supplier directly to see if you qualify.

7. Get help from your energy supplier

If anyone in your home is in receipt of benefits, speak to your energy supplier and see what support they can provide. They should be able to tell you what help is available through the Energy Company Obligation.

If you need a little extra help from your energy company – including more support during a power cut – you can ask to be added to your electricity network priority services register.

If you are on home oxygen, you may be able to access a rebate on your energy costs, to help with the higher energy bills an oxygen concentrator can bring. Speak to your oxygen provider for more details.

If you live in Wales, contact the Welsh Government’s Nest scheme on 0808 808 2244 to see if you are eligible for a package of free home energy efficiency improvements such as a new boiler, central heating or insulation.

You can also get advice on how to make your home more energy efficient at the Each Home Counts website, and find out about any grants and schemes you may be eligible for.

8. Apply for an emergency grant

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust offers emergency grants of up to £150 to provide short-term support to children and adults living with CF, and those that care for them, when they are in immediate financial difficulty and/or an item or service is urgently needed to stop their health deteriorating.

These grants are processed weekly. The last day for applications for an emergency grant before Christmas, due to our office closures, is Monday 14 December, and the payment date will be 21 December. Grants received after this date will be paid on 21 January 2021.

9. Apply for a health and wellbeing grant

The Trust also offers health and wellbeing grants of up to £350 to assist children and adults living with CF with buying items or services that will be of benefit to their health and wellbeing. Applications are assessed by a panel that meets every two months. We prioritise applications where the person living with CF would not otherwise be able to afford the item or service, due to being in financial need.

The deadline for our next round of applications is 12 January 2021, and the panel is on 21 January 2021.

10. Look after your mental health

This time of year often puts extra pressure on us. The Mental Health Foundation has produced a range of resources to help you to look after your mental health.

If you're in distress and want someone to talk to, call the Samaritans for free on 116 123, or text 'SHOUT' TO 85258. These services are open 24/7, including Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

11. Check out our website

The Financial support pages on our website have a number of resources to help you if you are in urgent need of support, as well as information on benefits, discounts, and money saving ideas.

12. Contact our Helpline

0300 373 1000 or 020 3795 2184
helpline@cysticfibrosis.org.uk

Our confidential Helpline offers a listening ear and will ensure you get the support you need.

We’re here to talk you through all the support that is available, including our welfare grants, or to signpost you to other sources of support. We can provide specialist advice on benefits, and can support you to find ways to increase your income or reduce your outgoings – this is particularly important at the moment for people who have seen a reduction in their income or a change in their employment status due to the pandemic.

The Helpline is currently open Monday to Friday, 10am–4pm.

The helpline will be closed from midday on Thursday 24 December and will open again at 10am on Monday 4 January 2021.

If you need urgent advice, please check Advice Local for advice agencies in your area, or speak to your CF team.

We know that the winter months can be a difficult time if you have money worries. Sangeeta, our Welfare and Rights Advisor, and Nicky, our Welfare Officer, will be available directly on our Helpline on Thursday 17 December so please do get in touch if you have any queries.

Outside of the Christmas closure, our helpline team are on hand all year round for any support or information you need and can provide information on grants, as well as referrals to Sangeeta for benefits advice, and Nicky for income maximisation.

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