The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said it will be paying claimants their £10 Christmas bonus soon. However, the amount is worth barely anything anymore. Moreover, with the cost of things like a Christmas dinner having skyrocketed, it seems like the DWP is taking the piss paying the Christmas bonus in the first place.
The DWP Christmas bonus
As Devon Live reported, the government launched the Christmas bonus in 1972 for social security claimants. Despite successive governments keeping it, the amount given hasn’t changed since 1972. It doesn’t take an economist to work out this is a farce. A quick input into the Bank of England’s inflation calculator shows that if governments had increased the Christmas bonus with inflation, it would now be worth at least £108. As This Is Money noted, back in 1972 the £10 Christmas bonus:
was enough to cover the cost of a turkey dinner for the whole family, with change leftover for presents.
In fact, it would probably have covered more than that – because, for example, the cost of a Christmas dinner was actually around £3.34 in 1972. Now, analysis from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) as well as the BBC shows that the £10 the DWP will be bunging to millions of claimants in the next few days won’t even get you a turkey.
Like turkeys at Christmas
TUC research shows that the cost of a Christmas dinner this year has gone up three times faster than wages have. It said in a press release:
the cost of traditional Christmas dinner items such as turkey, pigs in blankets, carrots and roast potatoes has risen by on average 18 per cent over the past year, even faster than the consumer price index at 11.1 per cent, while wages have risen by just 5.7 per cent. The cost of cranberry sauce and bread sauce have risen by 33 per cent – six times faster than wages.
If wages had gone up as much as the cost of a turkey this Christmas, the average worker would have an extra £76 a week in their pay packet.
Meanwhile, the BBC did a breakdown of how much a basic Christmas dinner would cost at various supermarkets. It said that:
A basic Christmas dinner for five people – comprising a frozen medium-sized turkey, stuffing balls, Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, pork chipolatas, onion gravy and mince pies for dessert – will cost £30.03 compared to £24.67 last year.
That’s a 22% increase on last year. If social security had gone up by that much, the state pension would now be £219.11 a week (£39.51 more), and a Universal Credit award for a couple aged over 25 would be £622.09 a month (£112.18 more).
DWP: an insult to millions of us
However, the real sting in the tail with the DWP’s miserly Christmas bonus is what it should be worth compared to 1972, taking into account the standard inflation increase.
Back in 1972, the weekly state pension was just £6.75 – and it was pensioners that originally got the Christmas bonus. On that basis, if governments had kept the Christmas bonus rising in line with the rate of the full state pension (currently £185.15), it would now be £274.02. That £274 could pay for a family’s entire Christmas – albeit modestly.
It feels like the government and DWP are mocking people with the £10 Christmas bonus. The department has cut some people’s social security by up to £13,000 across recent years. Meanwhile, the DWP’s 10.1% increase in rates from April 2023 won’t actually make up for its previous years of cuts.
The department knows £10 is taking the piss – and that most people won’t even notice the money. Yet it continues to pay it anyway. The Christmas bonus is a cruel joke – and the only ones laughing are those at the DWP.
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