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Bringing Up A Family on Benefits: Brief Guide To The Key Benefits

Family on Benefits


There’s a wide range of government benefits to support you as you bring up your family if you’re on a low income and need assistance. This is a brief guide to some of the key benefits that you may be eligible to receive.

Child benefit – almost everyone who has a child under 16 (or under 19 and still in full-time secondary education) qualifies to receive child benefit as it’s not means-tested. You’ll be given a form from the hospital when your child is born, or you can make your application online on the Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website. You’ll receive an amount for every child you have – a larger sum for the first child and a reduced sum for each additional child. It’s normally paid every four weeks, but you can arrange to receive it weekly if you’re on a low income and receive other benefits. It can be paid directly into your bank account or posted to you as a cheque, which you can cash at any post office. The benefits don’t count as income so they won’t be taxed and won’t affect any other benefits you receive.

Child tax credits – if you have children under 16 and your family income is less than £58,175 per annum (or £66,350 if you have a child under one), you may apply for child tax credits, a regular payment which is means-tested, i.e. based on you and your partner’s annual income. There are two parts to the payments – a family element, paid to any family with children, and a child element, an additional sum for each child in the family. If you have a disabled child or a child under one, you may receive more money. Child tax credits are handled by HMRC, so to apply you’ll need to phone or write to them. Online applications are not available at present.

Child maintenance – if you have a child whose other parent doesn’t live with you, the non-resident parent is obliged to give you money to help you bring up the child. A government body called the Child Support Agency (CSA) will collect and make the payments on your behalf. The amount that you’ll be given will depend on the non-resident parent’s income, how many children you have who qualify for maintenance, and how many children the non-resident parent has lived with them. Either the non-resident parent will pay you directly or you can arrange for the payments to be made to you through the CSA. Any amount that you receive in child maintenance won’t affect any child tax credits that you receive. For information on how to apply, contact the CSA.

Statutory maternity pay– women who are in work are entitled to maternity pay to allow them to take time off work when their baby is born. To qualify, you must have been working with the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the estimated date of delivery, and have earned at least £84 per week. You’ll get 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, followed by a further 20 weeks at £108.85 or 90% of your average earnings, whichever is less. You’ll receive your maternity pay through your employer’s payroll, and tax and national insurance will be deducted as they would from your normal pay. To claim statutory maternity pay, you should speak to your employer at least 28 days before you plan to stop work. Note that some employers have their own maternity policy instead of statutory maternity pay, which will pay you more money.

Statutory paternity pay – new fathers are also now entitled to paid time off by the government. To qualify, you must be the father of your wife or partner’s baby, or the adoptive father of the child, or the husband or partner of the adoptive mother of the child, or have responsibility for bringing up the child. To qualify, you must have been working with the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the estimated date of delivery, or employed up to the week when you or your wife/partner were matched with an adoptive child, and be earning at least £85 per week. You’ll be paid £108.85 for two weeks, or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is less. As with statutory maternity pay, you’ll receive it through your employer and national insurance and tax will be deducted. To apply for statutory paternity pay, you’ll need to inform your employer at least 15 weeks before the baby is due, or within a week of being informed that you’ve been matched with an adoptive child, and you’ll need to take the leave within eight weeks of the adoption or birth of the child.

Welfare food scheme – the government can help you buy baby formula, milk, fruit and vegetables and vitamins if you’re on a low income and receiving other benefits such as income support, jobseeker’s allowance or child tax credit if you and your partner earn less than £14,155 per annum. If you’re pregnant, you’ll receive vouchers for seven pints (four litres) of cow’s milk a week. If you have children, you’ll get the same amount of milk for each child aged between one and five. You can exchange the vouchers for milk at any shop that accepts them. You’ll also receive free vitamins and tokens for 900 grammes of infant formula per week for children under one, which you can collect at your local health centre or NHS clinic. To apply for free milk when you’re pregnant, let your midwife or health care practitioner know. To apply for the free food for children, you’ll need to apply for child tax credit as soon as your child is born. A new programme called Healthy Start is currently being trialled in Devon and Cornwall, in which vouchers worth £2.80 can be exchanged for milk, baby formula, vitamins and fresh fruit and vegetables in any shop that accepts them.

– About The Author

Benedict Rohan Website:

Benedict Rohan works as a freelance finance writer. Commercial Mortgage, Homeowner Loans, Remortgages

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