This advice applies to England. Change country
Benefits for families and children
Universal Credit (UC) will eventually replace Child Tax Credit.
UC is currently being rolled out to certain areas across the UK. Depending on where you live and what your personal circumstances are, you might be able to claim UC instead of Child Tax Credit.
To see if you live in a UC area, follow these steps:
- find your nearest Jobcentre if you don’t know it
Help for families and children
There are benefits for families to help with the extra costs of children.
- benefits for women who are pregnant or who have just had their baby
- benefits for the partners of women who have given birth
- benefits for people who adopt
- benefits which you may be able to get when you have responsibility for a child or young person.
If you're having a baby, you may be able to get statutory maternity pay or Maternity Allowance. This will depend on whether you work and, if you do, how much you earn and how long you have worked for the same employer. If you're pregnant, you may be entitled to free vitamins and Healthy Start vouchers to help with the cost of milk, fruit and vegetables. Whether or not you can get this help may depend on your income.
For more information about Healthy Start vouchers for milk, fruit and vegetables, see Help with health, education and legal costs.
Statutory maternity pay
Statutory maternity pay is paid by your employer if you're away from work to have a baby. It can be paid for up to 39 weeks. To get it you need to have been:
- working for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before your due date
- earning an average of at least £112 a week
You can check what maternity pay you're entitled to if you'd like more information.
Maternity Allowance is a benefit for women who have been working but who do not meet the work and earnings conditions for statutory maternity may. A woman can also claim maternity allowance if she has worked for her employed spouse or civil partner’s business, but was not employed or self-employed herself.
Who can get Maternity Allowance
Women who have been employed or self-employed
You can get Maternity Allowance if you have been working recently or you have stopped working to have a child. You must meet all of the following conditions:
- you must have been working for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the week in which you are due to give birth. It does not matter if these weeks are split up, or if they are not all for the same employer
- you do not qualify for statutory maternity pay
- you have been earning at least £30 a week on average. This can be from employed work or self-employed work
- you must still be pregnant, or have given birth to a live baby, by the start of the eleventh week before the week in which your baby is due, or you must have given birth to a stillborn baby after the end of the 24th week of pregnancy.
Maternity Allowance does not depend on national insurance contributions. You won't have to pay back your Maternity Allowance if you decide not to return to work.
Women who have not been employed or self-employed, but have worked for a self-employed spouse or civil partner’s business
You can get Maternity Allowance if you have been working recently for your self-employed spouse or civil partner’s business or you have stopped doing this work to have a child. You do not need to have earned anything. You must meet all the following conditions:
- you must still be pregnant, or you must have given birth to a live baby, by the start of the eleventh week before the week in which your baby is due, or you must have given birth to a stillborn baby after the end of the 24th week of pregnancy
- you must be expecting to give birth in the week starting on 27 July 2014 or later than this
- you must have worked with someone who at the time was your spouse or civil partner and was self-employed
- you must have worked with them for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the week in which you are due to give birth. The 26 weeks do not have to be in a row, and working for part of a week counts as one whole week
- they must be liable to pay national insurance contributions for self-employed people for these 26 weeks
- you’re not entitled to maternity allowance for the same week and the same pregnancy because of your own employed or self-employed work. If you’ve been employed or self-employed, you may be able to claim maternity allowance as an employed or self-employed person instead
- you’re not entitled to statutory maternity pay for the same week and the same pregnancy.
You won't have to pay back your Maternity Allowance if you decide not to return to work.
How much is Maternity Allowance
The amount you can get is either 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings or £139.58, which is the maximum amount. You will get whichever is less.
If you have been self-employed, you had to have paid Class 2 national insurance contributions to qualify for the maximum amount. You have to pay these for at least 13 of the 66 weeks before your baby is due. If you don’t pay these contributions you can still get Maternity Allowance, but you will only get £27 a week.
If you have been self-employed and have not paid enough Class 2 contributions, you can volunteer to pay these to qualify for the maximum amount. Ask the Jobcentre about this when you claim.
If you haven’t been employed or self-employed, but you’ve worked for a self-employed spouse or civil partner’s business, you can get £27 a week.
How to claim Maternity Allowance
You should claim Maternity Allowance using form MA1.
You can also get the form:
- by phoning Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688 or textphone 0800 023 4888 - there is also a Welsh language line number, which is 0800 012 1888
- from antenatal clinics
- from local benefits offices.
You should return the form to your local benefits office.
You will need medical evidence of your pregnancy, usually your maternity certificate (MATB1). If you claim Maternity Allowance after your baby is born, you should provide the birth certificate. If you are employed, you also have to provide Form SMP1 from your employer, which confirms that you are not entitled to statutory maternity pay.
You can claim at any time once you are 26 weeks pregnant. If you claim late, you can get Maternity Allowance up to three months before you claim if you could have qualified for benefit earlier. It does not matter why your claim is late.
When you claim Maternity Allowance, you have to provide your national insurance number. You will normally also have to give the national insurance number of your husband, civil partner or other adult who looks after your children if you are claiming an additional amount for this person. If you do not know your number, but you think you have one, you should provide evidence that will help the benefits office to identify your number. If you do not have a national insurance number, you will have to apply for one.
For information on how to apply for a national insurance number, see National insurance – contributions and benefits.
How long is Maternity Allowance paid for
If you’ve been employed or self-employed, you can get Maternity Allowance for up to 39 weeks. If you haven’t been employed or self-employed, but you’ve worked for a self-employed spouse or civil partner’s business, you can get Maternity Allowance for 14 weeks. The earliest it can start to be paid is the 11th week before your baby is due. The latest it can start is just after your baby is born. There are rules about when your Maternity Allowance has to start being paid if you are not working, or you are not entitled to Maternity Allowance until later in your pregnancy.
Problems with Maternity Allowance
If your Maternity Allowance claim is refused when you think you are entitled, or you get less benefit than you think you should, you can challenge the decision. You should do this within one month of the decision.
If you are not happy with the service provided by the benefits office, for example, because of mistakes or delays, you can complain. You can do this whether or not you also want to challenge a decision.
It's against the law for you to be treated unfairly because of your race, sex, sexuality, religion or disability when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decides about your claim for Maternity Allowance. Also, the DWP has a policy which says it will not discriminate against you because of other things, for example, if you have caring responsibilities. If you feel that you've been discriminated against, you can make a complaint about this.
For more information about challenging a benefit decision and about complaining, see Problems with benefits and tax credits.
If you can't get statutory maternity pay or Maternity Allowance
If you are not entitled to statutory maternity pay or Maternity Allowance, you may be able to claim other benefits instead.
If you are pregnant or you have had recently had a baby, you may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This will depend on the stage of your pregnancy and whether there would be a risk to your health or your baby's health if you worked. You may be able to claim Income Support instead. You can claim Income Support once you are 29 weeks’ pregnant, or earlier if you are incapable of work because of your pregnancy. Before this, if you are capable of work, you could claim Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Statutory paternity pay
If you are a working father, or the partner of a woman having a child (including a same-sex partner), you may be able to get statutory paternity pay for two weeks during your paternity leave. You can also get statutory paternity pay for paternity leave you take when you are adopting a child.
For more information about paternity rights and pay, see Parental rights at work.
Income Support during paternity leave
If you are not entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay – perhaps because you have not worked for long enough - you may not be able to claim any paid paternity leave. You should check what rights you have under your contract of employment.
If you’ are on statutory paternity leave you may be entitled to Income Support if you:
don’t get any Statutory Paternity Pay or payment from your employer
get some Statutory Paternity Pay but at a very low level
- get Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit or tax credits when you are working
Paternity and Jobseeker’s Allowance
If you are a member of a couple and you have a joint claim with your partner for Jobseeker’s Allowance, your partner’s pregnancy may mean that only you have to sign on. Your partner may possibly also be able to claim Income Support for both of you until a few weeks after she has the baby, instead of Jobseeker's Allowance. Once the child is born, or if you adopt a child, you do not both have to sign on for Jobseeker’s Allowance and only one of you has to meet the job seeking conditions. If you usually claim Income Support, your right to benefit is not affected by your partner being pregnant.
If you are taking parental leave to look after your children, you may be entitled to Income Support if your employer is not paying you anything, and you usually get Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit or tax credits when you are working. Men and women both have the right to take unpaid time off work as parental leave if they have worked for their employer for one year.
For more information about parental leave, see Parental rights at work.
If you work and you are adopting a child, you may be able to get Statutory Adoption Pay.
For more information about Statutory Adoption Pay, see Parental rights at work.
Sure Start maternity grant
If you get benefits or tax credits because you are on a low income, you may be able to get a Sure Start maternity grant to help with the costs of a new baby. It does not matter what you spend the money on, and the grant does not have to be repaid.
A maternity grant is a fixed amount of £500.
You can only get a maternity grant if the new baby is the only child under 16 in the household. Different rules apply if you have twins or more babies.
You can get a maternity grant if you meet one of these conditions. Your child must be aged 12 months or under when you make the claim and you must be responsible for the child:
- you or your partner are pregnant, or have given birth
- you're the parent (but not the mother) of the baby or you are responsible for that parent, and you are responsible for the baby. The parents must not be partners when you make the claim
- you've been given an adoption order or child arrangements order granting you residence for a child (in Scotland and Northern Ireland, a residence order)
- you've been appointed as guardian of the baby
- you've had a baby by a surrogate mother and you’ve been given a parental order
- an adoption agency has placed a baby with you for adoption
- you've adopted a baby from overseas.
You can get a maternity grant if you or your partner get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit or universal credit at the time of the claim. If you are an asylum seeker supported by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS), you cannot get a maternity grant but you can apply to NASS for a one-off payment of £300. In this case, you must apply before your baby is two weeks old.
If you get Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit, you can get a maternity grant if you get Child Tax Credit at a rate higher than the family element or Working Tax Credit where there is entitlement to a disability element. If your income drops because you are taking time off to have a baby, it may be worth asking the Tax Credit office to reassess your tax credit entitlement based on your current year income. You may then find you are entitled to a maternity grant.
You can claim a maternity grant using form SF100 (Sure Start) .
If you or your partner are pregnant, you can claim a maternity grant from the eleventh week before the baby is due and up to three months after the baby is born.
You can only claim a maternity grant up to three months after the date of:
- an adoption, residence or parental order
- becoming responsible for the baby, if you are the parent, but not the mother, of the baby or you are responsible for that parent and for the baby, and the parents are not partners
- becoming the baby's guardian
- an adoption agency placing a baby with you
- adopting a baby from overseas.
You will need to provide evidence that you have received the advice of a health professional on the health and welfare needs of your baby.
If your claim for maternity grant is refused and you think you are entitled, you can challenge the decision. You should do this within one month of the decision. You can also complain if you are unhappy with the service from the benefits office, for example, if there is a delay.
It's against the law for you to be treated unfairly because of your race, sex, sexuality, religion or disability when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Social Security Agency in Northern Ireland decide about your claim for a maternity grant. Also, the DWP has a policy which says it will not discriminate against you because of other things, for example, if you have caring responsibilities. If you feel that you've been discriminated against, you can make a complaint.
For more information about challenging a decision about a maternity grant, see Problems with benefits and tax credits.
Most people living in the UK can claim Child Benefit for their children. If a child’s parents cannot look after a child, the person who does care for the child may be able to claim Guardian’s Allowance as well.
If you have a child who is disabled, you may be able to get extra money included in your benefits, and you may be able to claim Disability Living Allowance in respect of your child (see under Disability Living Allowance).
Many parents can also claim Child Tax Credit. You may be able to get this whether or not you are working, depending on your income and how many children you have.
Child Benefit is a tax-free benefit paid to most people with children. You do not need to have paid any national insurance contributions to get Child Benefit and you can get it regardless of your income. However, if you are getting Child Benefit and have income above a certain level, you may have to pay extra tax because you are getting Child Benefit. For more information, see Child Benefit and tax if you have a high income.
Who can get Child Benefit
You can get Child Benefit if you are responsible for a child aged under 16, or a young person aged under 20 if they are still in full-time education up to A level or equivalent, or on certain approved training courses. In England, you can also get it for a young person who is on a 16-19 study programme. You may also get Child Benefit for a young person who has been accepted on a course. This means that most parents can get Child Benefit, but you can also get it if you are bringing up a child and you are not the biological parent. You cannot usually get Child Benefit for a child you are fostering or for a child who is in local authority care or in prison.
You get Child Benefit for each child you are responsible for. Usually, you and your child have to be living in the UK to claim Child Benefit. If you have come to live in the UK on or after 1 July 2014 you need to live in the UK for three months before you can claim child benefit. However, you may be exempt from this rule if, for example, you are:
- an EEA worker or self-employed person, or the family member of an EEA worker or self-employed person
- someone who retains the status of an EEA worker or a self-employed person because, for example, you are temporarily unable to work due to illness
- a non-EEA national who is working or self-employed in the UK and you are not restricted from receiving Child Benefit because of your immigration status
- a refugee or someone who has been granted discretionary leave to remain in the UK or humanitarian protection.
- someone who used to live in the UK and you have been away for less than one year.
There is a factsheet about the residence conditions for child benefit on GOV.UK.
If you are an EEA national you will also need to show that you have the 'right to reside' in the UK.
More about the right to reside
If the child dies
If a child or young person for whom Child Benefit was being paid dies, you will carry on getting Child Benefit for eight weeks after the week in which they die. You might stop getting Child Benefit before eight weeks if the young person would have reached the age of 20 before the end of eight weeks.
If a child dies before the end of the week in which they were born, you can claim Child Benefit for the eight weeks after the week when the child dies.
Child Benefit if you have a high income
From 7 January 2013, if you're a higher-income family getting Child Benefit, you'll have to pay extra tax.
For more information about Child Benefit and higher-income families, see Child Benefit and tax if you have a high income.
How much is Child Benefit
Child Benefit is paid at a higher rate for your oldest child and at one rate for all your other children.
|Weekly rate||From 6 April 2015||From 6 April 2016|
|Child Benefit for oldest child||£20.50||£20.70|
|Child Benefit for other children||£13.70||£13.70|
To claim Child Benefit you can complete claim form CH2 online, then print it off and post it. You can also print it off and complete it by hand, if you prefer.
When you claim Child Benefit, you will have to provide your national insurance number, or information to help the office find your number. If you do not have a national insurance number, send the form in anyway, to avoid delays.
For information on how to get a national insurance number, see National insurance – contributions and benefits.
Getting Child Benefit for a period before you apply
You can get Child Benefit for up to three months before the date you make your claim. This is called backdating. You can only do this if you met the conditions for the benefit before you claim. You should explain on your claim form when your entitlement to child benefit started (for example, when your child was born). It does not matter why you did not claim earlier.
Checks on Child Benefit, change of circumstances and fraud
You can report changes of circumstances that might affect your benefit using a secure internet connection on GOV.UK.
Changes you must report include:
- change of address or bank details
- if your child turns 16 and stays on or leaves full-time education or training
- if you go abroad for more than four weeks.
You may commit a benefit fraud if you deliberately give incorrect or misleading information, or fail to report a change of circumstances which could affect your Child Benefit, for example, if you have a child over 16 who leaves school and starts work. Even if you are not committing fraud, you can cause an overpayment which will have to be repaid. Your circumstances can be checked at any time while you are claiming. Benefit fraud is a criminal offence and you can be prosecuted or asked to pay a penalty.
For more information on what to do if you are asked to attend an interview under caution, see Problems with benefits and tax credits.
How is Child Benefit paid
Child Benefit is paid by the Child Benefit Office, which is part of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). If you live with the other parent of your children, Child Benefit is paid to the mother. If you do not live with the other parent, Child Benefit is usually paid to whichever parent the child lives with. If more than one person claims Child Benefit for the same child, there are rules about who should be paid the benefit.
Problems with Child Benefit
The process for challenging a Child Benefit decision depends on when it was made. If you are not happy with a Child Benefit decision made on or after 6 April 2014, you must ask for a mandatory reconsideration of the decision before you can appeal. You must do this within one month of the date of the decision.
If the decision was made before 6 April 2014, you may be able to use the old appeals process in some cases. This means you can ask for the decision to be looked at again, or go straight to appeal.
Some decisions about Child Benefit cannot be appealed, for example, a decision about who should receive Child Benefit when two people have claimed it.
If you are not happy with the service provided by the Child Benefit Office, for example, because of mistakes or delays, you can complain. You can do this whether or not you also want to challenge a decision.
It's against the law for you to be treated unfairly because of your race, sex, sexuality, religion or disability when the Child Benefit Office deals with your claim for Child Benefit. Also, the Child Benefit Office is part of HM Revenue and Customs, which has a policy saying it won't discriminate against you because of other things. This includes things like if you are a carer. If you feel that you've been discriminated against, you can make a complaint about this.
For more information about challenging a benefit decision and about complaining, see Problems with benefits and tax credits.
Guardian’s allowance is a tax-free benefit which you can claim if you look after a child who is not your own (biologically or by adoption) and the child's parents have died. In some cases, you can get it if there is one surviving parent but that parent can't look after the child for a specified reason. So, you may be able to get Guardian’s Allowance if you look after a child who is an orphan, or whose surviving parent is missing or in prison, or whose adoptive parent has died. You can only get it if you receive Child Benefit for the child.
Guardian’s Allowance is paid at the rate of £16.55 a week for each qualifying child. It's paid by the Child Benefit Office, which is part of HM Revenue and Customs.
If you are not sure whether you can claim Guardian’s Allowance, you can contact the Guardian's Allowance helpline.
You can claim Guardian’s Allowance using form BG1 or by phoning the Guardian's Allowance helpline. If you have not already claimed Child Benefit, you should claim this at the same time as Guardian’s Allowance. You will have to supply a national insurance number or information to identify your number, or apply for a national insurance number if you have not got one. If you met the conditions for Guardian's Allowance before you make the claim, you can get up to three months’ backdated benefit.
For more information about national insurance numbers, see National insurance – contributions and benefits.
You can find more information about Guardian's Allowance on GOV.UK.
One of my children is disabled. I'm a single parent and I can't work because my child needs a lot of care. Can I get any extra financial help? English isn't my first language and I can't really understand what all the forms say.
Normally, as a single parent, you stop getting income support once your youngest child is five (seven in Northern Ireland). However, if you are caring for a disabled child you should be able to continue to get income support. You might also get some extra financial help because your child is disabled. Your local benefits office may be able to give you a leaflet explaining everything in your own language. If you need an interpreter to make your claim for Income Support, one should be provided. If they don't provide this help, get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at your local Citizens Advice.
If you are responsible for a disabled child, you may be able to get Disability Living Allowance for the child. You may also be able to get extra amounts when other means-tested benefits are calculated - for example, in Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction. You may also be entitled to extra amounts in the calculation of Child Tax Credit.
Disability Living Allowance
You can get Disability Living Allowance for a child who has care needs or mobility problems. Care needs include help with washing and dressing, and mobility problems having difficulty walking at an age when most children would not need help. Children under 16 cannot claim Disability Living Allowance in their own right, so usually you will claim this for your child if you are their parent or guardian.
For more information about Disability Living Allowance, including special rules for children, see Benefits for people who are sick or disabled.
Further help if you have a disabled child
If you have a disabled child, make sure that you're getting all the other help you have a right to. For example, the council (HSC Trust in Northern Ireland) may help with care. There are transport and parking concessions that might help with your child's travel. There are special rules about education for disabled children.
For more information about help from the council, see Social care and support.
For more information about transport and parking concessions, see Transport options for disabled people.
For more information about the education of disabled children in England, see Special Educational Needs and in Scotland, see The parents' guide to additional support for learning.
Help with the costs of childcare
Child Tax Credit does not include any help with the costs of childcare. However, Working Tax Credit does include some help towards childcare. If you are working and you are on a low income, you may be entitled to Working Tax Credit.
If you are not getting Working Tax Credit, there may be other help with childcare you can access. For example, if you are under 18, you may be able to get help with the costs of childcare if you go back to school. If you are on the Work Programme, the organisation providing the Work Programme may be able to help with your childcare costs.
If you are working, your employer may offer childcare support in the form of childcare vouchers. The Childcare Voucher Scheme involves giving up some of your pay in exchange for the childcare vouchers and there are tax advantages if you receive vouchers instead of pay. However, if you accept a cut in pay this could reduce your salary to a sum below the lower earnings limit and affect your rights to certain benefits. Your State Pension, Maternity Allowance, statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay and tax credits could all be affected if your pay falls below the lower earnings limit.
You may be able to get advice about available childcare from a Sure Start centre in your area.
You can find a Sure Start Children's Centre on GOV.UK.
Child Trust Fund
The Child Trust Fund (CTF) is a savings and investment account for children. The government used to make payments to children through this account and family and friends can also contribute. However, the government stopped opening any new accounts for children born after 2 January 2011.
If your child was born between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011, and you were getting Child Benefit, your child was eligible for a Child Trust Fund account .
If your child already has a Child Trust Fund account, they will have access to the account when they reach 18 and will be able to spend the money as they like.
Your family and friends can contribute to a Child Trust Fund account, up to an overall total of £4,000 a year. The year runs from the child's birthday.
Once a child is 16, they can manage the Child Trust Fund Account themselves, but they cannot access any of the money until they are 18 unless they are terminally ill.
If a child with a Child Trust Fund account dies, the money in the account will pass to the person entitled to inherit the child's estate - usually the parent(s).
Help with the costs of bringing up children
If you are on a low income, you may be able to get other help with the costs of bringing up your children. For example, your children may be entitled to free school meals or help with the costs of school uniform. If you are pregnant or you have young children, you may be able to get vouchers to help with the cost of milk, fruit or vegetables. In most cases, this help will depend on what benefits you are receiving.
For more information about other help for children if you are on a low income, see Help with health, education and legal costs.
If your income has changed because of having children and you'd like some unbiased money advice, try the Money Advice Service financial health check. The questions take just a few minutes to answer and at the end you'll have a better understanding of what shape your finances are in.
The health check also gives you a financial action plan and ideas on how to make the most of your money.
Get help with bills and budgeting
If you're trying to cut your spending or are having problems keeping up with payments, see our advice on getting help with bills. Use our budgeting tool to see exactly where your money goes each month.
Get more help
If you need more help, speak to an adviser at your Local Citizens Advice.