Skip to main content

Social Security Benefits: Christmas

Volume 470: debated on Thursday 10 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what assessment he has made of the effect on Post Office counters of the 2007 arrangements for paying benefits which would otherwise fall due over the Christmas period; (174227)

(2) what the earliest date is on which benefit payments which would otherwise fall due over the Christmas period may be paid; and if he will make a statement;

(3) if he will bring forward the earliest date on which benefit payments which would otherwise fall due over the Christmas period may be paid; and if he will make a statement.

The Department has always ensured that when customers are due payments on a national public holiday when most banks and financial institutions are closed, they have access to their money in advance.

We normally advance payments to the last banking day before the Christmas holiday, which last year fell on 24 December. Post Office Ltd. had been aware for some time of these arrangements and had assured us that branches would be able to cope with the anticipated volumes.

However, Post Office Ltd.’s own decision to close at lunch time on the Monday raised concerns about customers’ ability to get their money that day. Post Office opening times are operational matters for Post Office management.

Although Post Office Ltd. has provided further assurances that they would be able to cope, including with lunch time closing, we have decided that, where it is technically possible to do so, we will advance payments to 21 December last year. This means that every pensioner will receive their payment before Christmas and around three quarters of pensioners will be paid on 21 December. Some customers will still need to collect their money on the Monday and others may choose to do so. Post Office Ltd. has made clear that everyone who wants their money that day, will be able to get it.

Eight out of 10 of the Department’s customers are paid into bank accounts and will be able to access their money from their bank on the Monday, or whenever they want from cash machines over the Christmas period.