Benefits for Mums
Updated 5 November 2012
Let’s face it – we could all do with a helping hand sometimes and mums are no exception. Whether it’s an extra tenner for the shopping here or a free gym session there, every little helps. So we’ve searched high and low for loads of great benefits for mums, including financial help and free health care.
There is plenty of financial support that mums (and dads) can get from the government to help towards the cost of having a family, supporting children while you go back into education and putting children through their own education. The government changes who’s entitled to benefits each year which can get confusing. We’ve mapped it all out for you in this article, so read on to find out what you and your children are entitled to.
Governmental Support for Parents
Child tax credit -tax credits are payments from the government. Before 6th April 2012 you could usually get some child tax credit as long as your income wasn’t over £41,300, but now the income limit will depend on your situation.
As a rough guide, you now might not be able to claim if:
- you have one child and your annual income is more than around £26,000
- you have two children and your annual income is more than around £32,200
This is just a rough guide though, so you could still qualify even if your income is above these amounts – for example if you pay for registered or approved childcare, you’re disabled or you have more than one or two children.
Sure Start Maternity Grant – this a £500 tax-free grant to help parents on low incomes pay for things after giving birth for the first time. It does not have to be paid back, but you must be receiving certain other benefits in order to claim this. You can only receive this grant if there are no other children under 16 years of age in your family. Check the Direct Gov website for more information and to download a form.
Healthy Start – The Healthy Start scheme supports pregnant women, new mums, families with young children who are on benefits, and pregnant under 18-year-olds. Healthy Start provide families with vouchers which can be used to buy frozen and fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as milk and infant formula milk. It also provides coupons which can be exchanged for vitamins and supplements.
If you’re pregnant you will receive one voucher (£3.10) each week. For each baby aged under one year, you will receive two vouchers a week (£6.20), children aged between one and four receive one voucher a week (£3.10). If you apply as soon as you are 10 weeks pregnant, you could get up to £93 in vouchers during your pregnancy.
See if you qualify for the Healthy Start scheme, just head to their website or give them a call on 0845 607 6823 for more information and an application leaflet.
Child Benefit – this is a tax-free payment from the government that you can claim to help you pay for the upkeep of your child/children. It is usually paid every four weeks, but can be paid weekly. You can claim if you have a child under 16 or a child over 16 in approved education or training. For your eldest or only child you will get £20.30 a week, then £13.40 for every other child.
The High Income Child Benefit charge will be introduced from 7 January 2013. If you, or your partner have an individual income of more than £50,000 and one of you is entitled to get Child Benefits you may be liable to this new tax charge. To find out if you might be affected and what you need to do click here.
As of 6th April 2011 child benefit rates have been frozen for three years.
Child Trust Fund – this scheme was put in place to help get your child’s savings started. This benefit is now only available to children who are not subject to any immigration restrictions, those who qualify for child benefit, and for children born on or after 1 September 2002 to 2 January 2011. You will receive a voucher for up to £250 within a month of receiving your child benefit. If your household receives child tax credit and you have a household income of £16,190 or less a year then your child will receive an extra payment of £250.
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Jobseeker’s allowance – if you are currently unemployed or work less than 16 hours a week, but are looking for a full time or part time job then you may be eligible to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance to help with the costs of living. How much you can claim depends on your circumstances. See if you can claim here.
Employment and Support Allowance – if you have a disability or health condition that prevents you from working, you may be able to get Employment and Support Allowance which replaced Incapacity Benefit and Income Support in 2008. You will have to fill out a questionnaire about your illness or disability and how it affects your everyday life. You may also have to take part in a medical examination. You may be able to work while still claiming ESA but there are certain rules about this.
Income support – this is for people who don’t claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance and have a low income. To be eligible to claim you must work less than 16 hours a week and have less than £16,000 in savings. There are some exceptions but to claim you will not be in full time study.
If you live with a partner and they are in similar circumstances, only one of you will be able to claim Income Support, but there are extra amounts that you can claim based on yours and your partner’s circumstances. You will need to contact your local JobCentre Plus to find out more.
If you are a lone parent, you can claim Income Support until your youngest child reaches the age of 7. Before your Income Support payments are due to stop, you will have to attend an interview at JobCentre Plus where you will be advised on other benefits you may be able to claim if you have not found work, or a job that you work at for more than 16 hours.
Working tax credit -this is based on the hours you work and get paid for, or expect to be paid for. Unpaid work doesn’t count as work when claiming tax credits.
Anyone who works, whether they have kids or not, could be entitled to the working tax credit. Check out the HMRC caluclator to see whether you’re eligible for tax credits.
Job Grant – if you’re aged 25 or over, have started full time work (16 hours or more) and were claiming income support, jobseeker’s allowance, incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance for 26 weeks prior to starting work, then you may be able to claim a tax-free lump sum job grant. For lone parents and couples with children the grant is £250, for single people and couples without children the grant is £100.
Childcare and School Support
Pre-school Childcare costs – all 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 15 hours of free early education for 38 weeks of the year. This can take place in nurseries, playgroups, pre-schools or at a childminder. To find out when your child will become eligible for their free place click here.
Free school lunches for children - as a parent, you do not have to pay for your child’s school lunch if you claim any of the following:
- Income Support
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (income-based)
- Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
- Support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- The Guarantee element of State Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit, providing you are not entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual income (as assessed by HM Revenue & Customs) that does not exceed £16,190
- Working Tax Credit during the four-week period immediately after your employment finishes or after you start to work less than 16 hours per week
Your Local Authority is responsible for providing free school lunches. You can apply here
Help with school uniforms – families on low income or benefits may be entitled to clothing grants or vouchers from their Local Authority to help with the costs of school uniforms. To apply, enter your postcode to find your local authority here.
Free school transport - if you are a working parent, it can be difficult to get your children to school. The good news is, your child is automatically entitled to free school transport from your Local Authority, if;
- they are between 5 and 16 years old
- they attend the nearest suitable school but it is further than the statutory walking distance – that is, 2 miles for pupils under 8 and 3 miles for those aged 8 and over.
They are also automatically entitled to free transport – no matter how far they live from the school – if they’re unable to walk for the following reasons:
- They have SEN (special educational needs)
- They have a disability, or mobility problems
- There is no safe walking route
Find out more and apply for home to school travel support by entering your postcode.
Support for Parents in Education
Care to Learn – if you are under 20, have one or more children and are still in education or planning to go back into education, the Care to Learn scheme can pay up to £160 per child per week (£175 in London) for childcare and associated travel costs. For more information, visit Gov.uk.
If you don’t qualify for any of the above schemes, you may still be able to get help through your sixth form or college.
Support for Working Parents
Parental Leave-working parents are entitled to take up to 13 weeks leave for each child until they reach their fifth birthday. This leave is most likely to be unpaid, but if you need some time to spend with your family or some time to make arrangements for your children’s welfare, then you are able to take leave from work and have a job to come back to!
You must have been employed with the same company for a year or more and have a contract with that company, you must be named as the child’s parent on their birth or adoption certificate or have legal responsibility for the child if they are under five (18 if disabled).
Flexible Working-if you have a child under six or a disabled child under 18, you are allowed to ask your employer for a more flexible working pattern to help you care for your child. You must have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks, be the child’s mother, father, adoptive or foster parent, legal guardian or the partner of one of these and have responsibility for the child’s upbringing. Direct Gov has more information on flexible working and forms for you to download.
Free swims for pregnant women – if you live in Bristol, you can purchase an Everyone Active Discount Card for just £3.50 and benefit from free swims at six different leisure centres in the area. You’ll need to fill out an application form ad take it to your nearest Everyone Active centre with proof of residency and your National Health Service Card to prove your eligibility. Those who do not live in Bristol can purchase a Discount Card for £30.
If you live in London take a look at London Mums, the free peer support group for mums in London. There are pages and pages of events and activities, with loads of them running for free. It also covers Kent and Essex, so take a look to see what you can find. Register now to get your free London mums goody bag.
If you are pregnant or have had a baby within in the past 12 months, you are entitled to free prescriptions and free dental care. You must complete an FW8 application form to get a Maternity Exemption Certificate – you can get one from your GP, midwife or health visitor. The certificate will be valid for 12 months.
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