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It’s hard to know how any parent manages their budget. 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 mothers and fathers, if you know where to look.
Some financial support is available through the government. It goes towards the cost of having a family, supporting children if parents go back into education and putting children through education.
The government changes who’s entitled to benefits each year, which can get confusing. But we can let you know where you stand right now.
Child tax credits are payments from the government. These payments are for parents with children under 16 or under 20 who are in education 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 for more than two children if they were born before the 6 April 2017.
You may also qualify for the ‘family element’ – worth up to £545 a year. You will only be able to get this element if you’re responsible for a child born before 6 April 2017.
Other factors, such as disability, are also considered. There’s no set limit for income because it depends on your circumstances.
To receive Working Tax Credits you must have a child and be aged between 16 to 24, or have a qualifying disability or be aged 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 and have an income below a certain level.
There is no upper threshold for income as it depends on your circumstances.
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.
The Sure Start Maternity Grant is a £500 tax-free grant that helps parents who are on a low income. This money doesn’t have to be paid back, but you must be receiving other benefits to make a claim. You can only receive this grant if there are no other children under 16 years of age in your family. Check the government website for more information and to download a form.
The Healthy Start scheme supports families with young children who are on benefits. This scheme gives families vouchers, so they can buy fruit, vegetables, milk and formula milk. You can exchange the coupons for vitamins and supplements as well.
If you’re pregnant, you will receive one voucher worth £3.10 each week. For each baby aged under one year, you’ll receive two vouchers a week (£6.20). For children aged between one and four you’ll 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 0345 607 6823.
Other benefits for mothers include Child Benefit.
Child Benefit is a tax-free payment from the government. It’s 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 additional children.
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.
If you are 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. How much you can claim depends on your circumstances.
In some places, you’ll claim Universal Credit instead. Check the government website to see whether your area is part of the roll out yet.
If you have a disability or health condition that prevents you from working, you may be able to get Employment and Support Allowance. You’ll 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 is for people who don’t claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance and are on 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. You’ll also need to fall into one of the categories of claimants who don’t 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 is based on your circumstances . These include 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.
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.
All infant school children (Reception, Year 1 and Year 2) are entitled to free school meals.
Your Local Authority is responsible for providing free school lunches. You can apply here
Families on low income or benefits may be entitled to clothing grants 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’re 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;
School children are automatically entitled to free transport, if they’re unable to walk for the following reasons:
Find out more and apply for home to school travel support by entering your postcode.
If you’re 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. You must be aged 19 or over, on a further education course and facing financial hardship, to be eligible for Discretionary Learner Support. The money can help pay for living and travel expenses, childcare costs or course materials and equipment.
Working parents are entitled to take up to 50 weeks maternity eave for each child in their first year. For 39 weeks, you’ll be paid Statutory Maternity Pay. 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.
Statutory Maternity Pay 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.
Parents often share maternity leave and some even take time off at the same time. This is called Shared Parental Leave and you may get Statutory Shared Parental Pay, which is paid at the same rate as Statutory Maternity Pay. Mothers 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.
All employees have the right to request flexible working. But, you must have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks, before the request, and it is at their discretion.
Benefits for mothers also include free swims!
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 a form 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.
In addition, you can claim money back for any charges you paid on or after the start date of your exemption certificate. Also, 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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