When can I claim Child Benefit?
As a general guide, most people are entitled to Child Benefit, but you may not be entitled for reasons to do with your residence and/or immigration status, or if you or your partner earn more than £50,000 a year.
You do not have to be the legal parent of a child to get Child Benefit. You can get it if a child normally lives with you.
Usually, you claim Child Benefit once you have registered the birth of a baby or the child has come to live with you. However, at the moment, if you can’t register the birth because of coronavirus, you can claim Child Benefit without registering.
In addition, Guardian’s Allowance is paid to the guardians of children who cannot be looked after by their parents because:
- Both the child’s parents have died.
- One of the child’s parents has died and the whereabouts of the other is unknown and was unknown at the time of the death.
- One of the child’s parents has died and the other is serving a jail term for at least 2 years or is detained in a hospital by order of the court.
If you are entitled to Guardian’s Allowance you will usually be entitled to Child Benefit for the child as well.
Should I claim Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is the main benefit for low income claimants below state pension age who are making new claims, so you may need to claim this to get help based on your family income. However, you should always be cautious if you are already on other benefits or tax credits which Universal Credit is replacing, as you could end up worse off . In very limited circumstances (if you are entitled to an extra amount of the older benefits, called a Severe Disability Premium) you can still make new claims for tax credits and other benefits, such as Housing Benefit.
How much Universal Credit will depend on all your circumstances, including your earnings and other income. You can’t get it if you and/or a partner you live with have more than £16,000 in savings or other assets. You may also not be entitled to Universal Credit for reasons to do with your residence and/or immigration status, but again, it depends on your circumstances.
Being on Universal Credit can help to provide you with more money for your new child, and may also mean you can get additional help (for example, Healthy Start vouchers or Best Start foods, free school meals, and possibly the Sure Start Maternity Grant or Best Start Grant (see below).
What is Child Tax Credit?
Unless very limited circumstances apply, you will no longer be able to make a new claim for Child Tax Credit because it has been replaced with Universal Credit (see below). You can find out more about it and how to claim, on GOV.UK. If you get Working Tax Credit already, you can claim Child Tax Credit (as this isn’t making a new claim).
If you already claim Child Tax Credit, you can add a new child to your claim. However, if you have a third or subsequent child born on or after 6 April 2017, you will usually not be able to claim extra Child Tax Credit for them: you should still let HMRC know about the birth.
Working Tax Credit can help you with the costs of childcare if you work. You will also not be able to make a new claim for Working Tax Credit unless very limited circumstances apply (such as being in receipt of Severe Disability Premium) and will need to apply for Universal Credit instead (see below). However, if you already get Child Tax Credit, you can start to qualify for Working Tax Credit.
Can I get other help with the costs of my baby?
If you have recently had your first baby or adopted a child and don’t have other children under 16, you may be able to claim a Sure Start Maternity Grant, but this will depend on your other benefits or tax credits. Universal Credit is a qualifying benefit for the grant. You cannot claim a Sure Start Maternity Grant in Scotland. If you live in Scotland, check whether you can claim a Best Start Grant (payable for other children too, not just your first baby, and payable at other stages in a child’s life).
Healthy Start vouchers (Best Start foods in Scotland) may also be available if you are on benefits or tax credits (including Universal Credit) and you meet other conditions. These can help with the costs of certain items, including fruit, vegetables, milk, and infant formula.
What about Housing Benefit and Council Tax?
If you already have an existing claim for Housing Benefit you can continue to get this. Otherwise, you can only make new claims if you are entitled to a severe disability premium (an extra amount for disabled people in some of the old benefits), or if you are in certain types of supported or temporary accommodation. Apart from those exceptions, new claims for Housing Benefit can only be made by people of state pension age (if you are in a couple, you usually both need to be of pension age).
Housing Benefit may be reduced if the total amount of your benefits is higher than the benefit cap. However, the cap shouldn’t be applied if you are exempt, for example, if you get Working Tax Credit, or you, your partner or a child are on disability benefits.
If you are in England, Wales or Scotland, you may be able to get help with the Council Tax via council tax reduction. You are more likely to qualify for this help once you have a child. If you live in Northern Ireland, you should check whether you can get any help with the rates.
This advice applies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details.
If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.