Single Parent FAQs: Preparing for Christmas – Issue 25
Our advice and information team who work on our Lone Parent Helpline, webchat and Ask a Question feature, receive questions from single parents around Scotland every day.
Our new feature – Single Parent FAQs – on our newsletter and blog spotlights Frequently Asked Questions on a different topic each month.
At this time of year we are receiving many enquiries from parents doing Christmas on a budget. We’ve put together a handy A-Z of Christmas guide to help you with budget friendly activities, recipes and crafts, available to download below.
Take a look at the FAQ's
I’m claiming benefits and struggling to budget over Christmas, can you give me any advice?
The DWP has warned benefit claimants that their Christmas and New Year payments could be made earlier than normal. Christmas Day falls on a Monday with Boxing Day also a bank holiday so the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs have moved some payments to avoid those days as well as to avoid New Year’s Day.
- Payments due on December 23, 24, 25 or 26 should instead be paid on Friday, December 22
- Payments due on December 28 should instead be paid on Wednesday, December 27
- Payments due on December 30, 31 or January 1 and 2 should instead be paid on Friday, December 29
- Payments due on January 3 will be paid on Tuesday, January 2
Budgeting over the festive season can be hard. With some benefit payments being paid early, It might be helpful to work out what you need to pay and put money aside. Often when we get payments early, it can be easy to spend it, forgetting that there will be a longer period between payments.
Budgeting at Christmas can be more difficult because normal routines are paused, and payment dates can change. If you can pay bills early this will help you stay on track. Keeping your food shopping to as close to you regular spend as possible will help not to leave you short.
It might be worth looking at where you are spending the most money. Christmas is a time of pressure for many households. Buying gifts and presents can eat into your income. Martin Lewis has relaunched his campaign this year to ban unnecessary gifts.
Does the Lollypop lady really need that box of bath salts? It can be hard when you want to show your appreciation to people in your life, but if you think about the post-Christmas hauls in charity shops and the amount we spend on unwanted gifts (£700 million!), it can be a great motivator for cutting back. The Cost of Living is impacting everyone, so why not use this year to start a routine of only buying the most necessary gifts.
I’m struggling to put electricity in my meter and keep my house warm just now, is there any help available?
You could be entitled to some extra financial help over Christmas if you receive certain qualifying benefits:
Winter Heating Payment helps people on low-income benefits who might have extra heating needs. It’s automatically paid once a year. The payment for winter 2023 to 2024 is £55.05.
To get Winter Heating Payment you must get one of the following benefits during the qualifying week (6th-12th November 2023):
- Universal Credit
- Pension Credit
- Income Support
- Income based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income Related Employment Support Allowance
- Support for Mortgage Interest
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.
To get Christmas Bonus you must get one of the following benefits during the qualifying week (Normally the first week in December):
- Adult Disability Payment
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
- Attendance Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance
- Carer Support Payment
- Child Disability Payment
- Constant Attendance Allowance (paid under Industrial Injuries or War Pensions schemes)
Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (once the main phase of the benefit is entered after the first 13 weeks of claim)
- Disability Living Allowance
- Incapacity Benefit at the long-term rate
- Industrial Death Benefit (for widows or widowers)
- Mobility Supplement
- Pension Credit – the guarantee element
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- State Pension (including Graduated Retirement Benefit)
- Severe Disablement Allowance (transitionally protected)
- Unemployability Supplement or Allowance (paid under 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
- Widow’s Pension
E.ON ‘Winter Support’ scheme
If you are an E.ON Next customer, you may be eligible for a discount. E.ON Next has pledged to support its most vulnerable customers as the weather gets colder, as part of their ‘Winter Support Scheme’.
The company will be offering struggling households money off their gas and electricity. E.ON Next will fund up to 50% of eligible customers’ energy bills from the time they sign up through to the end of winter in March 2024. This offer is available exclusively to existing E.ON Next customers on low incomes (i.e. household income of less than £19,000 a year) and customers who have certain medical dependency needs and a household income of less than £31,000 a year. As part of this package E.ON Next will also write off debt an existing customer has on joining the scheme up until 31 March 2024.
If you are really struggling with heating and electricity costs this Christmas, contact your provider and speak to them. You can also speak to Citizens Advice for advice on support available to help with energy bills. You may be entitled to extra support from your energy supplier - for example if you’re disabled or have a long-term health condition. They can also advise you on grants to help pay off debts to your energy supplier.
If you cannot afford to top up your prepayment meter
You can get temporary credit from your supplier. You will have to pay this back.
You may also be able to get a fuel voucher. This is a code given to you in a letter, text message or email which you can use to add credit to your gas card or electricity key.
I am struggling with buying Christmas presents for my kids. I have a few things I have picked up in the sales last January but I don’t have any spare money to add to them. I feel I have let them down. This is not how I had imagined Christmas.
It is horrible to feel that you cannot provide for you children. But if you think about their expectations and yours, you may find they sit in very different places. The excitement about Christmas comes from the events around it. There is a pressure around Christmas to have stacks and stacks of gifts. We have all seen the pictures on social media of piles of presents. It is hard not to compare yourself to other families. But Christmas is about more than the presents. It’s about the memories and little traditions that you have as a family. There is so much pressure on us to buy things to make ourselves happy but that rarely happens. True happiness comes from being with our children and making memories.
We get a lot a calls about this subject every year so have put together the A-Z of Christmas. This guide aims to show you the things you can do to make Christmas special without spending much money. It’s got crafts and recipes for you to try and include your kids in some festive fun.
See our previous issues of Single Parent FAQs on:
- Wellbeing and stress
- Having a baby
- Housing options
- Child maintenance
- Child contact
- Universal Credit
- Getting back into education as a single parent
- Financial support for single parents
- Bridging payments and help for Christmas
- Social Security Scotland
- What happens when my child gets older
- Separation and divorce
- Support for students
- Domestic abuse
- When does Child Benefit stop?
- Adult Disability Payments
- Child Maintenance
- What happens when my child gets older (2)
- Cost of Living
- Summer holidays
Remember you can submit your own question via the Ask A Question feature on our website any time and our expert advisers will respond.