What is the point of the pensioners' £10 Xmas bonus?

When the £10 Christmas Bonus was first handed out to pensioners in 1972 it was enough to cover the cost of a turkey dinner for the whole family, with change leftover for presents.
But after more than four decades of rising inflation, you can barely get a pack of greeting cards and a book of stamps with it now.
Every year most of Britain's 13 million pensioners receive an annual tax-free gift of £10, known as the Christmas Bonus. 
But many Money Mail readers say they did not even notice the extra cash arrive in their account along with their state pension last week.
When the Christmas bonus was first launched under the Pensioners and Family Income Supplement Payments Act by Edward Heath's government in 1972, it was worth more than the weekly state pension of £6.75. 
However, with the weekly state pension now £164.35, a £10 boost is not nearly as meaningful.
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Had the Christmas Bonus risen in line with inflation, it would today be worth around £134.
Critics say the perk is 'a legacy of the past' and that the Government could put the money (which goes to all pensioners who receive certain benefits) to better use.
Joy Crumpler, 80, says she remembered her mother being 'thrilled' when she received her first bonus, as it would cover the cost of a Christmas turkey.
But Joy, of Knowle, West Midlands, says today it would hardly cover the vegetables. She wants to see the money spent more effectively by the government.
The retired NHS lab technician, a grandmother of six, adds: 'What can you get with £10 today? I would have thought a sum like that could do a lot more good elsewhere.'
Widow Christine Jones, 91, had not even noticed the extra cash, as her pension is paid directly into her bank account.
The retired school meals manager says: 'I hadn't realised we had such a thing. 'It is nice but it doesn't make a big difference to a lot of people. It would hardly buy a couple of cards and a book of stamps.'
Jim Bowater, 83, says recipients could have done their Christmas shopping with their bonus back in 1972. 
The pensioner from West Bromwich adds: 'It used to be useful then — £10 would be for the Christmas shopping. It used to go a long way then; now you can't even go down the pub.'
Stan Pinnington, a semi-retired advertising agency account handler, says he would not miss it.
The 71-year-old, who lives with wife Joyce in Bishop's Stortford, says: 'It is always helpful but I certainly wouldn't object if it went to more worthy people. 
'As a country we are skint, so I do not think we can afford it. The £10 really is superfluous, so they would be better giving it to worthy causes like the NHS.'
Former pensions minister Steve Webb says making the payment to every pensioner must cost the Government around £130 million every year.
He says: 'The Christmas Bonus was once a meaningful payment but has become a nonsense, having been frozen for decades.' 
Mr Webb, policy director at pension firm Royal London, adds: 'This money would be better targeted at the most vulnerable pensioners who may be worried about winter fuel bills rather than spread ridiculously thinly across the entire pensioner population.'
Ros Altmann, champion for older workers, questions whether it is still worth handing out, due to administrative costs.
She says: 'It does seem odd to spend money sending an extra £10 to each pensioner each year. The cost of doing that is presumably quite high.
'If you are going to give people a bonus, make it significant. Otherwise it is a bit of a legacy from the past.'
The Department for Work and Pensions was unable to say how much it spent administering the bonus scheme.
The Liberal Democrats have previously spoken out against the cash boost and say the money should be diverted. Party leader Vince Cable says: 'This outdated bung isn't a meaningful bonus and it isn't targeted at those who most need it. 
'It would be a much needed Christmas present to society to redirect the money to the poorest working people or the poorest pensioners.'
But charity Age UK says many pensioners still value the gift.
Charity director Caroline Abrahams says: 'We know that Christmas can be a difficult time for many older people, particularly those on low incomes, who want to be included in the festivities by sending cards, buying a present for a grandchild or carer or simply choosing the odd treat from the supermarket.
'So £10 may be a small amount nowadays, but it is a welcome recognition of the importance of Christmas and other annual festivals to many older people, and it would be sad, indeed, to lose it.'
A DWP spokesman says: 'The Christmas Bonus is part of a number of policies which support pensioners, including the triple lock which has seen the basic state pension rise by £1,450 a year in cash terms since April 2010.
'We remain committed to helping both pensioners and others who receive the bonus and have no plans to revise arrangements.'
b.wilkinson@dailymail.co.uk
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