Have you reviewed your finances for 2020?

While the Government may be making positive sounds regarding the general economy, and we have the Northern Ireland Executive up and running again, the ongoing austerity measures coupled with the introduction and roll out of Universal Credit are continuing to have an impact on the lives of families.  Add to that rising prices, any impact from Brexit and significant changes to our benefits system, it is more important than ever to review your financial position and priorities for the year ahead and seek the right advice to ensure you are getting all the help and support you are entitled to.

If you are claiming Tax Credits, have your circumstances changed since April 2019?

If so, and your overall income has changed since last year, you must inform Tax Credits to ensure that you are not being over or underpaid. If there is a rise or fall in your household income of more than £2,500, reporting your income may result in a change in your award within this tax year.

This may be especially relevant if someone in the household has had, or is having, a year of reduced income, for example being on maternity leave or setting up a new business. As well as ensuring that you are receiving the correct amount now, the reporting of changes sooner rather than later may also result in your payments for the first few months of next tax year being more accurate.

Starting to use registered childcare?

If you are using, or planning to use, registered childcare make sure you explore all options regarding help towards your childcare costs. There are currently four forms of help with childcare costs, dependent upon your circumstances and household income:

  • The Childcare Element of Working Tax Credit (note due to the introduction of Universal Credit there are no new claims for Tax Credits in Northern Ireland. The only exception to this is those who are on a Severe Disability Premium.)
  • Universal Credit
  • Tax Free Childcare
  • Childcare Vouchers (note Childcare Vouchers are offered through employers as a salary sacrifice while both Tax Credits and Universal Credit are means tested benefit. The Government have closed the scheme to new entrants, so only those who joined their employer’s scheme before October 2018 are eligible to participate in the scheme.  If you currently use this scheme but move employer you will not be able to join your new employer’s scheme.)

The festive period can be an expensive time and can lead to financial difficulties into the new year so if you are in debt and need help please seek professional advice from a specialist Debt Advice Service who will be able to help you with this.

National Minimum Wage

On a positive note, the National Minimum wage is set to increase from April 2020, the new hourly rates are:

  • For ages 25 and above, up 6.2% to £8.72
  • For 21 to 24 year olds, up 6.5% to £8.20
  • For 18 to 20 year olds, up 4.9% to £6.45.

For free, impartial and confidential advice on any of the topics mentioned above, or indeed any queries on what support your family may be entitled to, please call our Family Benefits Advice Service on 028 9267 8200 or check out our online resources at www.employersforchildcare.org.