What parents should look out for in 2017!
Changes in the pipeline
2016 was a year of many developments which impacted on parents, not least the beginning of welfare reform in Northern Ireland. Looking forward to 2017 there are four main changes in the pipeline parents need to be aware of:
- Tax-Free Childcare
From early 2017 (at time of writing an exact date has yet to be confirmed) the new Tax-Free Childcare scheme will begin to roll out across the UK.
- Eligible working families will be able to claim 20% of their childcare costs, up to £2,000 per child per year, or £4,000 for a child with a disability, from the Government.
- For a family to be eligible, both parents will have to be in employment, working over 16 hours a week and earning between £115 per week and £100,000 per year. Self-employed parents will also be eligible to join.
- The scheme will be available to parents of children up to the age of 12 (or age 17 for children with disabilities).
- Tax-Free Childcare will roll out on a phased basis, allowing families with the youngest children to enter first. All families should be able to access the scheme by the end of 2017.
You cannot claim Tax-Free Childcare in conjunction with either Childcare Vouchers or Tax Credits, to find out which form of help is best for your family speak to one of our Family Benefits Advisors on 0800 028 3008.
- Income Support
From 16 January 2017 Income Support for lone parents, who are claiming Income Support only because they are a lone parent, will cease to be eligible when their youngest child is aged five or over.
- Currently, Income Support is only removed when the youngest child turns age seven.
- Impacted parents will be moved onto Jobseekers Allowance and will be required to actively look for work.
- If you are affected you will receive notification 8 weeks in advance of your Income Support stopping.
- Tax Credit Changes
As announced in the 2015 Summer Budget, two changes to Tax Credits will take place in April 2017:
- The child element of Tax Credits will be reduced so only the first two children in a family are eligible. Third and subsequent children born after April 2017 will no longer be eligible.
- The Family element, worth £545 per year, will be removed for new claimants from 2017.
- Universal Credit
From September 2017 Universal Credit will be introduced to Northern Ireland
Universal Credit is a new benefit for people of working age, who are in or out of work. It will combine six existing means-tested benefits for adults of working age and children into one benefit. This includes:
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
- Income Support
Therefore, if you are a lone parent, sick or disabled, a carer, unemployed or in low paid work and need help with living expenses, including your rent or mortgage, the means-tested benefit you will claim will be Universal Credit.
The structure is intended to be much simpler than that of the current system where separate benefits, which often overlap, are administered by different agencies, with different premiums and different ways of taking earnings into account.
We will communicate details on Universal Credit as they become available.
Our Family Benefits Advice Team are specially trained and can provide advice and information on any of the above changes and how they will impact you. Get in touch or call free on 0800 028 3008, or visit the parent factsheet section of our website for detailed information.