There are fewer benefits for mothers now but, thankfully, quite a lot of freebies and extras you can still get.
It’s hard to know how any parent with young children is managing their budgets. From their carefree lives pre-children, suddenly they have to live with less money coming in, while at the same time coping with a whole new level of expenses. The benefits environment hasn’t been kind in recent years – and parents haven’t escaped the cuts – but there is still some help available, and some benefits for mums and dads, if you know where to look.
- Financial support and benefits for mothers
- Governmental support for parents
- Benefits for mothers and employment support
- Support for childcare and education costs
- Free leisure
- Free health
There is some 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, but we can let you know where we stand right now.
Child tax credit – tax credits are payments from the government for parents with children under 16 or under 20 and in eligible eduction or training. You don’t need to be working to claim Child Tax Credit.
How much you will get depends on your circumstances. From 6 April 2017, most people will only get the “child element” of Child Tax Credit for up to two children. However, you’ll still be able to claim it for more than two children if they were born before that 6 April 2017.
You may also qualify for the ‘family element’ – worth up to £545 a year – but from 6 April 2017, you will only get the family element of Child Tax Credit if you’re responsible for a child or children born before that date.
What’s more, other factors, such as your income and circumstances, for example if your child is disabled, will be taken into account during the calculation. There’s no set limit for income because it depends on your circumstances (and those of your partner). For example, it’s sometimes £26,100 for a one child family but can be higher if you pay for approved childcare or one of you is disabled.
You could get Working Tax Credit if either of the following apply if you’re aged from 16 to 24 and have a child or a qualifying disability or you’re 25 or over, with or without children.
To qualify, you must work a certain number of hours a week, get paid for the work you do (or expect to) and have an income below a certain level. However, bear in mind that there is no upper threshold for income because it depends on your circumstances (and those of your partner). For example, £18,000 for a couple without children or £13,100 for a single person without children – but it can be higher if you have children, pay for childcare or one of you is disabled.
The basic amount of Working Tax Credit is up to £1,960 a year – you could get more (or less) depending on your circumstances and income.
To find out if you qualify try this tax credits calculator.
sure start maternity grant
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 (unless you’re having a multiple birth). Check the government 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, or pregnant under 18-year-olds. Healthy Start provide families with vouchers which can be used to buy frozen or 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 the 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 £20.70 a week, then £13.70 for every other child.
If you, or your partner have an individual income of more than £50,000 and one of you is entitled to get Child Benefit, you may be liable to the High Income Child Benefit charge. This is set at 1% of the Child Benefit for every £100 that your individual income is over £50,000 – so by the time you earn £60,000, the whole of the benefit is wiped out.
If you earn between £50,000 and £60,000 you can carry on getting the benefit and pay any over payment at the end of each tax year, but you must do a Self-Assessment Tax Return. To register, sign up here.
If you earn more than £60,000, you can opt out of getting the benefit altogether.
Bear in mind that you must consider any additional benefits as part of your income – a company car or buy-to-let rental income, for instance. If this sounds like you, it makes sense to seek government advice to avoid a hefty tax bill down the line.
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. Universal Credit is gradually being rolled out to replace Jobseekers’ Allowance, and in some places you may be able to claim Universal Credit instead. Check the government website to see whether your area is part of the roll out yet. See if you can claim here.
employment and support allowance
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. You also need to fall into one of the categories of claimants who do not have to look for work.
If you live with a partner and they are in similar circumstances, only one of you will be able to claim Income Support. If your partner works more than 24 hours a week, neither of you will be able to claim. 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 five. Before your Income Support payments are due to stop, you will have to attend an interview at JobCentre Plus.
working tax credit
Working tax credit – this is based on your circumstances – including the hours you work and get paid for, your income, any disabilities you have, and whether you pay for childcare. If you receive Universal Credit, you will not be able to get tax credits. Check out the HMRC calculator to see whether you’re eligible for tax credits.
pre-school childcare costs
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. Some two year olds are also entitled to free care if you are on certain benefits. 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
Free school lunches for children – all infant school children (Reception, Year 1 and Year 2) are entitled to free school meals.
Children may also be entitled to free meals throughout their school career if their parents are entitled to certain benefits.
Your Local Authority is responsible for providing free school lunches. You can apply here
help with school uniforms
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
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, two miles for pupils under 8 and three 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
Care to Learn – if you are under 20 when you start your course and have one or more children, 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 the above scheme, you may still be able to get help through your sixth form or college. To be eligible for Discretionary Learner Support (DLS), you must be aged 19 or over, on a further education course and facing financial hardship. The money can help pay for living and travel expenses, childcare costs or course materials and equipment.
Support for Working Parents
Maternity Leave – working parents are entitled to take up to 50 weeks leave for each child in their first year – 39 weeks of which you will be paid Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). This means that you will get 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first six weeks, £139.58 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. SMP is paid in the same way as your wages (eg monthly or weekly). Tax and National Insurance will be deducted. Find out how much you will be eligible for with this handy calculator.
What’s more, maternity leave can be shared between the parents however suits them best, and both parents can even take time off at the same time. This is called Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and you may get Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) – which is paid at the same rate as Statutory Maternity Pay. Mums can still take maternity leave for the first 52 weeks instead, or can take the first two weeks and then swap so that the father takes the remaining time allowed.
Flexible Working – all employees have the right to request flexible working. You must have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks, before the request, and it is at their discretion.
If you live in Bristol, you can benefit from free swims at six different leisure centres in the area. You’ll need to fill out an application form and take it to your nearest Everyone Active centre with proof of residency and your National Health Service Card to prove your eligibility.
If you live in London take a look at London Mums, the free peer support group for mums. 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 after the baby’s due date. If the baby has already been born, 12 months after their date of birth.
What’s more, you can even claim money back for any charges you paid on or after the start date of your exemption certificate. When you pay, ask your pharmacist for an official NHS receipt – form FP57 in England or WP57 in Wales – and refund claim form when you pay.
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