A Guide to Benefits if you are under 16 or under 18 and having a baby
Last updated: 9 Mar 2022
Our mission is to remove the barriers that people with caring responsibilities face in the workplace. We provide advice on employment rights and in-work benefits. This article provides information on benefits that can be claimed if you are under 16 or under 18 and having a baby. If you need further advice please contact Gingerbread or Citizens Advice.
If you are under 16
If you are under 16, there are only a few benefits you can claim in your own right.
Benefits while you are pregnant
You will usually be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme which gives you a pre-paid card to help towards the cost of milk, fruit, pulses or vegetables whilst you are pregnant. You should ask your midwife about these. In Scotland, Healthy Start has been replaced by Best Start Foods
In Scotland only, you can get a Best Start Grant when you are pregnant or after your baby is born (you do not need to be on benefits).
Benefits when your baby is born
You can usually claim Child Benefit when your baby is born, but there may be a choice about whether you, or an adult you live with, claims it for your baby. Get advice if you are not sure what to do.
If you live with your parents or someone else who looks after you, they may be able to claim Child Tax Credit for you and your baby if they have an existing Tax Credits claim. Otherwise, they may have to claim Universal Credit instead. Depending on their circumstances, they may also be able to claim the Sure Start Maternity Grant for you, and the Healthy Start scheme may carry on after your baby is born. If you live in Scotland, you can get the Best Start Grant after your baby is born if you haven’t already claimed it, and Best Start Foods can continue (you don’t need to be on benefits to get these whilst you are under 18).
If you are a single parent (not living with a partner) and you live in England or Wales, you can contact Gingerbread for advice. In Scotland, you can contact One Parent Families Scotland and in Northern Ireland, Gingerbread NI. If you live with a partner, you can contact our helpline.
If you are over 16, but under 18
Once you are 16, there are more benefits you can claim in your own right.
Benefits while you are pregnant
If you are under 18 and live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you may be entitled to the Healthy Start scheme to help with the costs of milk, fruit, vegetables or pulses whilst you are pregnant. You should ask your midwife about this. If you are in Scotland, you can get Best Start Foods instead if you are under 18, and if you turn 18 whilst you are pregnant, these continue until the baby is born.
You may be able to get Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance if you have been working and meet the usual conditions. Once you are 29 weeks pregnant, you may be able to claim Universal Credit. However, if you are still in full-time education, you will have to wait until your baby is born to claim this. Bear in mind though that claiming Universal Credit will mean it is not possible for someone else (for example your parents) to claim Child Benefit or a child element of Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit for you.
If you are under 18, in Scotland you can get a Best Start Grant (you don’t need to be on qualifying benefits) once you are 24 weeks pregnant. If you don’t live in Scotland, you can’t get a Sure Start Maternity Grant unless you, or someone who claims benefits for you, are on a qualifying benefit (it may be payable once you are 29 weeks pregnant if you qualify).
Benefits when your baby is born
When your baby is born, you can claim Child Benefit . There may be an option for you to claim benefits or for your parents or carers to claim for you – if you are not sure which is best, you should get advice.
If you are not already claiming benefits, you can choose to claim Universal Credit when your baby is born. There may be a choice between you claiming Universal Credit and your parents or carers claiming Child Benefit and other help for you (if you are still in full-time education). You can’t do both, so seek advice if you need help to decide.
If you haven’t already claimed it, you or your parents/carers may be able to claim a Sure Start Maternity Grant for your baby, if it is your first child, depending on what other benefits you are claiming. In Scotland, this is replaced by the Best Start Grant and it doesn’t matter if you have other children. You will be entitled to the Best Start Grant if you haven’t already claimed it and you are under 18; if you have turned 18, it will depend on what benefits you or your family are on.
In England, Wales and N Ireland, you might be able to continue on the Healthy Start scheme but this will depend on what other benefits you or your family get. If you are in Scotland, you can get Best Start Foods, as long as you are under 18. Once you are 18, you may still qualify via benefits that you or your family are getting, or if you turn 18 whilst your baby is under 1, Best Start Foods will continue until your baby reaches their 1st birthday.
If you or your parents have come from outside the UK, whether you can claim benefits may depend on your immigration status. If you are not sure what to claim, you should get advice.
If you are a single parent (not living with a partner) and you live in England or Wales, you can contact Gingerbread for advice. In Scotland, you can contact One Parent Families Scotland and in Northern Ireland, Gingerbread NI.
If you are living with a partner, your rights to benefit will depend on the age of your partner and whether or not they are working. You can ring our helpline for more advice.
Your employment rights
If you are employed, you have exactly the same employment rights as any other employee. The only difference is the national minimum wage. All the information on our site about your rights at work applies. You can also look at the EHRC campaign Power to the Bump which is specifically aimed at young mums.
If you need further advice please contact Gingerbread or Citizens Advice.
The information on the law contained on this site is provided free of charge and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. If you are not a solicitor, you are advised to obtain specific legal advice about your case or matter and not to rely solely on this information. Law and guidance is changing regularly in this area.
We cannot provide advice on employment rights in Northern Ireland as the law is different. You can visit the Labour Relations Agency or call their helpline Workplace Information Service on 03300 555 300.