If you have had a baby or you are responsible for children, it can be confusing to work out what you are entitled to. Lots of people assume that they aren’t eligible for benefits or that it isn’t worth claiming, but you could be missing out. The main benefits that can be claimed by people who are responsible for children are:
• Child Benefit
• Universal Credit
• Child Tax Credit (only for people who have an existing Tax Credits claim)
• Income Support (only for people who have an existing Income Support claim)
• Housing Benefit (only for people who have an existing Housing Benefit claim)
• Council Tax Reduction
• Other Support
If you have recently had a baby or adopted a child please see our page on maternity pay and benefits.
If you would like to know whether you can get help with paying for childcare please see the childcare support section of our website.
An easy and quick way to check what benefits you might be entitled to is to use a benefits calculator.
You may also find our flowchart helpful to work through what you might be entitled to:
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.
Child Benefit can be claimed for each child you are responsible for up to the age of 16 (or 20 if they stay in full-time education). You can claim Child Benefit at the same time as other benefits.
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. You can find out more about Guardian’s Allowance and how to claim on GOV.UK.
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.
How much Universal Credit you get 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).
If you are entitled to Universal Credit you may be able to claim help with childcare costs if you work.
Child Tax Credit
Child Tax Credit is a benefit that can help people on a low income with the cost of raising a child. However, most people cannot make a new claim for Child Tax Credit because it has been replaced with Universal Credit.
You can only make a claim for Child Tax Credit if you are already getting Working Tax Credit, otherwise you will be told to claim Universal Credit instead (see above).
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.
If you are getting Working Tax Credit you may be able to claim help with the costs of childcare if you work. Also, if you do not currently qualify for Working Tax Credit, but start working enough hours to qualify, you can add Working Tax Credit to an existing Child Tax Credit claim.
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 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).
If you are renting and/or have service charges and you are not currently getting Housing Benefit, you may be able to claim help with housing costs through Universal Credit.
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.
Council Tax Reduction
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.
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.
You may be eligible for help with health costs, such as prescriptions, glasses and dental treatment if you are on benefits, including Tax Credits and Universal Credit.
You may also qualify for free school meals if you’re on benefits, including Universal Credit, however, if your on Tax Credits, you’ll only qualify if you get Child Tax Credit, not Working Tax Credit.
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.