With the cost of living crisis affecting all of us, ensure your family isn’t missing out on financial support

Whether it’s topping up the oil tank, filling the shopping basket or putting fuel in the car – ever rising prices are affecting all of the families our team supports on a daily basis. Families are struggling to make their incomes stretch to cover the rising cost of living. Many are now having to cut back on, or go without the essentials, and are already looking ahead with worry to the winter months when colder weather and darker nights – combined with further cost increases – will add to the pressure on household budgets.

In this context, it is more important than ever that families are accessing any financial support they are entitled to, however our team has found that many parents are unsure of the support that may be available to them, particularly those who are first-time parents.

Our Family Benefits Advice Service is here to help parents find out what financial support they are entitled to. We know that, even with support, many families will struggle – but any help can make a real difference. Below is a brief summary of what families may be able to claim, depending on their circumstances.

UK Government’s Cost of Living support measures

In May, the UK Government announced a new package of UK-wide financial support measures to help families struggling with the cost of living crisis. Some of these payments have already started to roll out, while others can be expected later in the year. Four main financial support measures were announced:

  1. Every household in the UK will get £400 of support to help with increasing energy bills.
  2. Those on the lowest incomes (approximately 8 million people on means tested benefits) will receive a one-off cost of living payment of £650 in two lump sums, in July and the Autumn. Importantly, this will include all means tested benefits, including legacy benefits, and not just households in receipt of Universal Credit (note, eligible households in receipt of Tax Credits will receive their first payment from 2 September, and their second in the Winter).
  3. Pensioners who receive winter fuel payment will also receive a one-off payment of £300.
  4. People who receive disability allowance will receive an additional one-off grant of £150.

These payments are a welcome short term measure, and will provide some much needed relief for families. However, much more support is required to support families through the current crisis, and over the longer term.

Child Benefit

Parents who earn under £60,000 per year can receive Child Benefit if they are responsible for bringing up a child who is under 16 years old, or under 20 if they stay in education.

The full Child Benefit entitlement is:

  • £21.80 a week for the first or only child
  • £14.45 a week for each subsequent child.

The payment is usually paid every four weeks, but can be paid weekly for single parents or those claiming certain other benefits.

Only one person can receive Child Benefit for their child or children, so couples will have to decide which parent will get it, however if either parent is earning over £50,000 you must pay the ‘High Income Child Benefit Tax charge’ meaning you pay back 10% of your child benefit for every £1,000 of income over £50,000.

If you have income of £60,000 or more you have to repay the full Child Benefit amount or can choose not to receive it at all. However, you should still fill in the claim form as this will help you to get National Insurance Credits which count towards your State Pension, and will ensure your child is registered to get a National Insurance number when they are 16 years old.

Sure Start Maternity Grant

New parents on certain benefits can receive a £500 grant to help with immediate financial pressures when caring for a new baby. Only parents who are expecting their first child are eligible for the grant, except in cases of a multiple birth.

This one-off payment doesn’t need to be paid back and it won’t reduce your monthly Universal Credit payment or Tax Credits.

Eligible parents can claim the Sure Start Maternity grant from 11 weeks before their baby’s due date up until six months after their child is born.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is the main ‘means-tested’ benefit for working age adults and includes an element for children and for help with registered childcare costs.

The amount you could get depends on how many children you have, when your children were born and what your household income and circumstances are. The maximum paid for a child born before 6 April 2017 is £290 per month. For children born on or after that date the maximum is £244.58 per month, and is restricted to only two children except in certain circumstances, such as a multiple birth.

Eligible working parents may also be able to claim a refund of 85% of registered childcare costs up to £646.35 per month for one child or £1108.04 for two or more children up to the age of 16. You first pay your childcare costs to the childcare provider and then claim the money back through Universal Credit.

Tax Credits

You can only make a new claim for Child Tax Credit if you are already in receipt of Working Tax Credit. If this isn’t the case you may be able to claim Universal Credit instead.

The amount you could get is ‘means-tested’ and so depends on how many children you have, when your children were born and what your household income and circumstances are.

Eligible working parents may be able to get help with up to 70% of registered childcare costs through Working Tax Credits.

Tax-Free Childcare

The Tax-Free Childcare scheme means that eligible parents of children aged 11 and under can get 20% of their registered childcare costs paid, up to a maximum of £2,000 per child per year. If your child has a disability, the maximum support is increased to £4,000 per child, per year, until they reach 17 years of age.

Parents need to earn at least the equivalent of 16 hours at the National Living Wage and up to a maximum of £100,000 per year per parent to be eligible for Tax-Free Childcare.

Healthy Start Card

Eligible parents can claim financial support through the NHS Healthy Start scheme towards the costs of baby milk formula, dairy milk and fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables until a child turns 4.

Families are issued with a prepaid debit card which is automatically topped up each week. The card is accepted as a form of payment in most shops and supermarkets.

Pregnant women will have their card topped up by £4.25 per week, from the 10th week of pregnancy. From the birth of the child, until the child turns 1, this increases to £8.50 per week, per child. Between the age of 1 and 4 the payment reverts back to £4.25 per week for each child.

Is there more help I can get?

New parents can be eligible for other non financial support and information. Health Visitors and Midwives can be a good source of information as to what may be available in your area. This can include, for example, Bounty Packs, free NHS Prescriptions and free NHS Dental Care while you’re pregnant and for 12 months after your baby’s due date.

Further information

For more information on these forms of support, including eligibility rules and how to apply, go to the factsheets section of our website. To make sure your family is claiming all the financial support you are entitled to, contact the Family Benefits Advice Service for a free, personalised ‘better off’ calculation. Freephone 0800 028 3008 or email hello@employersforchildcare.org.