Parenting is expensive. From the moment little one emerges into the world screaming and yearning for milk, to the numerous fashion and technology trends that need to be followed, parents’ pockets are drained. Young mums and dads are particularly vulnerable to financial stress, as they may have no savings behind them and a lower salary.
However, with a little research they might be able to find avenues of financial aid, such as these:
Statutory maternity leave
This is the first point to check, before you even give birth. It isn’t a benefit but is a mandatory entitlement that women have, around and after the time they give birth – at the earliest, 11 weeks before. Statutory maternity pay equates to 90% of average weekly earnings before tax for the first six weeks of leave, and £139.58 per week for 33 weeks after that (or 90% of their pay, whichever is lower). If you’re not getting this in the first year of your baby’s life, something needs to be checked.
It’s also worth researching shared parental leave, if the male half of the partnership wishes to take leave when the baby is born.
If you’re renting and on a low income then housing benefit can help, although the amount you receive depends on your income and circumstances, or whether you rent privately or from a council.
The cut-off salary for child benefit is £50,000 – if you or your partner earns less than this you will receive the full amount without paying it back. If one or both earns £50,000-£60,000 a portion will need to be repaid back through income tax. If you earn more than £60,000 all of it will be paid back, also through income tax.
You should apply for child benefit no matter your wage or even if you don’t need it, as it registers you for National Insurance credits (related to your entitlement to a state pension) and guarantees your child a National Insurance number at the age of 16. You can soon stop the payments by using the HMRC website.
Child benefit equates to £20.70 per week for the eldest child, and £13.70 for each additional child, for 2015-16.
Child Tax Credit
This has been merged with other benefits in some parts of the country into Universal Credit. It’s another benefit that is means tested, but there are also criteria including how many children under 16 live with you, and any disabilities your children might have. You’ll again need to apply to the government, and note that the rules are changing from 2017 when Child Tax Credit Support will be limited to the first two children in the family. Find out more about Child Tax Credit from Money Advice Service.
Housing benefit/Income support/working tax credit
Again, in some parts of the country these have been integrated into Universal Credit. If you’re renting and on a low income then housing benefit can help, although the amount you receive depends on your income and circumstances, or whether you rent privately or from a council.
Healthy food vouchers
They do what they say on the tin – vouchers of either £3.10 (1-4-year-olds) or £6.20 (under ones) per week, for various types of nutritious food and drink for women who are at least 10 weeks pregnant. You will only get these if you are on certain other benefits.
Sure Start Maternity Grant
This is a one-off grant of £500 for new parents, if the baby is the only child under 16 in the family or if you or your partner receives certain other benefits.
There are also a huge number of grants available from charities up and down the country, for youngsters in families suffering from poverty through to those with disability and illness. Disability Grants is a good place to start.