The rising cost of living is impacting families across the country – and it can be particularly difficult if you have children or are soon to become a parent.
However, parents can get help in several ways to ease their financial pressures. People can apply for tax credits, benefits and grants, through the DWP or HMRC, which could provide extra money for families.
Here we’ve listed some of the ways support is available, how much money you’re likely to get, and how you can make a claim. We have also given eligibility criteria for the programs and provided links for more information should you wish to apply.
Read more:More money needed for school breakfasts as ‘some children start class too hungry to learn’
Financial assistance if you have children
Maternity allowance is a payment you can get when you go away to have a baby. You could get it if you:
- are employed but cannot benefit from the statutory maternity allowance (SMP)
- are self-employed
- have recently stopped working
- taking part in unpaid work for your spouse’s or civil partner’s business
You can receive maternity benefit for up to 39 weeks and you can claim it as soon as you are 26 weeks pregnant. Payments can start up to 11 weeks before your baby is born. Please note that any money you receive may affect your other benefits.
You can use the Maternity Benefit Calculator to check your eligibility and figure out how much you could get.
If you are employed or recently stopped working
You will receive £156.66 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for 39 weeks if you are employed or have recently stopped working.
If you are self-employed
You can get between £27 and £156.66 per week for 39 weeks if you are self-employed. The amount you receive depends on the number of National Insurance Class 2 contributions you have paid in the 66 weeks before the birth of your baby.
More information on how to claim is available here.
Sure Start Maternity Grant
You could get a one-time payment of £500 to help cover the costs of having a child. This is called a Sure Start Maternity Grant.
You are generally eligible for the grant if the following two conditions apply:
- you are expecting your first child, or you are expecting a multiple birth (such as twins) and already have children
- you or your partner are already in receipt of certain benefits, including income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, pension credit, unemployment credit tax for children, the tax credit for work which includes a disability or serious handicap element, the universal credit.
You must apply for the grant within 11 weeks of the expected due date or within six months of the baby’s birth.
You do not have to repay the grant and this will not affect your other benefits or tax credits. Please note that you cannot get a scholarship if you already have children.
If you already have children under 16
You can only get a grant if at least one of the following applies:
- you are expecting a multiple birth (such as twins)
- the child you are caring for belongs to someone else
- you have been granted refugee status or humanitarian protection and you have a child or children from before you arrived in the UK
To apply for this grant, you will need to complete the Sure Start Maternity Grant form. If you need help with your application, contact the Sure Start Maternity Grant helpline on 0800 169 0140. More details can be found here.
You receive family allowances if you are responsible for raising a child who is:
- under 16
- under the age of 20 if they are in approved training or education
Only one person can receive family allowances for a child. It is paid every four weeks and there is no limit to the number of children you can claim for.
You may have to repay part of your Child Benefit as tax if your (or your partner’s) personal income is over £50,000. This is called the High Income Child Benefit Tax.
What you will get
There are two rates of family allowances. The current rates per week are:
- Senior or only child – £21.80
- Additional children – £14.45
Note: The benefit ceiling may affect the total amount of benefits you receive, including Child Benefit. Here are the details on how to make a claim.
Child tax credit
You can only apply for the Child Tax Credit if you are already receiving the Working Tax Credit. If you cannot claim the Child Tax Credit, you can claim the Universal Credit instead. The child tax credit will not affect your child allowance.
The amount you can get depends on how many children you have and if you are:
- reapply for child tax credit
- already applying for a child tax credit
If you make a new claim
The amount you could receive depends on when your children were born.
If all of your children were born before April 6, 2017
You could get the “child element” of the Child Tax Credit for all of your children. You will also benefit from the basic amount, called the “family element”.
If one or more of your children were born on or after April 6, 2017
You can claim the child element of the child tax credit for up to two children. You can get the child element for more children if exceptions apply. You will only get the family element if at least one of your children was born before April 6, 2017.
Child Tax Credit Rates 2022 to 2023 – Annual Amount
- The base amount (known as the ‘family element’) – Up to £545
- For each child (this is known as the ‘child element’) – Up to £2,935
- For each disabled child – Up to £3,545 (in addition to the child element)
- For each severely disabled child – Up to £1,430 (in addition to child element and disabled child element)
Here is more information on how to make a claim. And here are details on the working tax credit.
How are rising costs affecting your family? Let us know in the comments below
Living allowance for children with disabilities
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children can help with the extra costs of caring for a child who:
- under 16
- has difficulty walking or needs significantly more care than a child of the same age who does not have a disability
They must meet all the eligibility conditions. The DLA rate is between £24.45 and £156.90 per week and depends on the level of help the child needs.
It is a non-taxable benefit made up of two elements – a care element and a mobility element. The child may be eligible for one or both. Here is more information.
Use this calculator to find out how much you could get for licensed child care, including:
- free daycare for children from 2 to 4 years old
- assistance with childcare costs if your child is under 16 (or under 17 and disabled)
You can use the link above to check if you are eligible for up to 30 hours of free childcare per week and tax-free childcare for each child.
Free school meals
Your child is eligible for free school meals if you receive one of the following:
- Income support
- Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Employment and Income Support Benefit
- support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- the guaranteed element of the pension credit
- Child tax credit (provided you are not also eligible for working tax credit and have an annual gross income not exceeding £16,190)
- Work in progress tax credit – paid for 4 weeks after you cease to qualify for the work in progress tax credit
- Universal Credit – if you apply on or after 1 April 2018 your household income must be less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you receive)
Find out how to apply on your local authority’s website. Here is more information.