The Ultimate Guide to Financial Support & Benefits for Parents

As a new parent, knowing the benefits and financial support you can claim is important. Support can include tax credits, grants and even vouchers. However, it’s not easy figuring out exactly what you are entitled to and there are plenty of cases of people missing out. Most benefits depend on your circumstances, wages and (in some instances) even where you live. Luckily, there is support for everyone, it can just be a little difficult to get your head around. Here we’ll try and ease that a little by identifying all benefits in place to help you give your children the start they need in life, alongside support right up until they reach adulthood.

If you currently receive Universal Credit, some of the following benefits will be absorbed into that single monthly payment. If you are not on Universal Credit but still qualify for individual benefits, you will have to apply separately.

In this guide you will find out all the options available. Some benefits are only available for certain groups, child ages, or incomes. We will explain who is eligible for each child benefit and what it includes. So, let’s take a look at what is out there:

Pregnancy and Early Years Benefits

Pregnancy and early years can be expensive. As you prepare for your new arrival you’ll have to buy new things and budget for the future, as young children cost money. During the early years your child will grow quickly, so you’ll be spending a lot on clothing. You’ll also want to spend time with your baby.
Luckily, there are a range of benefits and financial support for parents during these times. These include benefits for working parents, as well as benefits for low-income families. Support available during pregnancy and early years include:

Free Prescriptions And Dental Care

During pregnancy and for a year after giving birth, the mother of the child is eligible for free prescriptions and NHS dental treatment. As pregnancy can cause problems with your teeth and gums, this can be a lifeline.

Who Can Claim This?

All women in the UK who are pregnant or have given birth in the last twelve months. Though in Scotland, Ireland and Wales you always get free prescriptions .

How To Claim

To claim you need to fill out the Maternity Exemption Form (FW8). You can get this from your doctor or midwife.

Paid Leave For Antenatal Care

If you are working during your pregnancy you are entitled to receive paid leave for all of your antenatal appointments. No matter how long you have been employed for, you are entitled to this benefit. This will not affect your annual leave. Antenatal care includes medical and midwife appointments, plus doctor-recommended appointments. The time off given also includes travel time

For your partner or baby’ father, they are entitled to unpaid leave to join you at the appointment. This is capped at six hours or thirty minutes for each appointment.

Who Can Claim This?

All employed pregnant women in the UK can claim this.

How To Claim

Simply tell your employer when your antenatal appointments are. They should put you down for paid leave. Give them as much notice as you can so that they can get cover.

Maternity and Paternity Leave

Mothers can have up to a years maternity leave and be paid from their employer for up to 39 weeks. You will get Statutory Maternity Pay for 39 weeks of the 52 weeks leave. Though the amount of pay changes depending throughout the maternity leave.

  • For the first six weeks of maternity you will receive 90% of your weekly earnings before tax.
  • For the next 33 weeks you receive either 90% of your average weekly earnings or £151.20 a week. You receive whichever is less.
  • The last 13 weeks are unpaid.

Who Can Claim This?

To claim maternity leave and pay, you must:

  • Be an employed pregnant woman;
  • Have been working for your employer for a minimum of 26 weeks;
  • Be earning at least £120 a week on average.

How To Claim

To claim maternity leave and pay, you must inform your employer of the date that you want to stop working by the 15th week before your baby’s due date. You also need to give your employer a minimum of 28 days’ notice before starting Statutory Maternity Pay and prove that you are pregnant.

Find out more about maternity leave on the Government website.

For the biological father or the mother’s partner, paternity leave is available. This is one or two weeks’ time off work that is paid. The payment is either 90% of your weekly wage before tax, or £151.20. You receive whichever is lower.

Who Can Claim This?

To claim this, you must:

  • Be the child’s biological father OR the mother’s partner OR the intended parent;
  • Have worked for your employer for 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby is due;
  • Earn at least £120 a week before tax.

How To Claim

To claim paternity leave and pay, you must fill out the Form SC3 (available here) and give this to your employer at least 15 weeks before your baby is due.

Find out more about paternity leave on the Government website.

You also have the option to take shared parental leave. You can learn more about this in our full guide.

Maternity Allowance

If you do not meet the requirements to receive maternity pay, you are eligible for Maternity Allowance. This is a fortnightly or monthly payment from the government.

How much you receive in maternity allowance and how many weeks you receive payment for depends on how much you earn. You will receive either:

  • £151.20 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings for 39 weeks – whichever is the lowest amount;
  • £27 a week for 39 weeks;
  • £27 a week for 14 weeks.

Who Can Claim This?

To claim maternity allowance you must be a pregnant woman or new mum who doesn’t qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay. This is because one of the following reasons:

  • You have not been with your employer for 26 weeks;
  • You’re self-employed;
  • Your average pay is below £120 a week.

How To Claim

To claim Maternity Allowance you need to complete an MA1 claim form or get in touch with your local job centre. You can find out more about Maternity Allowance on the Government website.

Learn more about how to budget for maternity and paternity leave in our complete guide.

Adoption Leave

If you are adopting a child, or having a child through surrogacy, you can receive Adoption Leave and Pay.
Statutory Adoption Leave can be taken up to 52 weeks. This is split up into 26 weeks of Ordinary Adoption Leave and 26 weeks of Additional Adoption Leave. Like maternity pay, you will receive payment for up to 39 weeks of the 52 weeks. The payment is the same as maternity leave.

Only one person can take adoption leave, if you have a partner they can claim paternity leave.

Who Can Claim this?

To claim adoption leave you must:

  • Have been employed by your current employer for at least 26 weeks before you were matched with a child;
  • Earn at least £120 on average a week before tax;
  • Give your employer the correct notice;
  • Give proof of adoption or surrogacy.

How To Claim

Once you have been matched with a child, you must tell your employer within seven days. You must inform your employer how much leave you want, your date of placement and the date that you want your leave to start. You can find out more on the Government website.

Sure Start Maternity Grant

For low income families, extra support is available. The Sure Start Maternity Grant is a one-off payment of £500 for your first baby, or if you are expecting twins, which you do not have to pay back. This grant is designed to help you buy essentials for your new born.

Who Can Claim This?

To claim this benefit, you must be a low-income family. Scotland is also exempt but in Scotland you can apply for the Pregnancy and Baby Payment instead.

To qualify you must be:

  • Expecting your first child, or be expecting a multiple birth;
  • Due within 11 weeks, or had a baby in the last 6 months;
  • On one of the following benefits (this can be you or your partner):
    • Jobseeker’s Allowance;
    • Pension Credit;
    • Income Support;
    • Employment and Support Allowance;
    • Working tax credit (that includes a disability element);
    • Child tax credit;
    • Universal credit

How To Claim

If your due date is within 11 weeks, or you have given birth in the last 6 months, simply fill out the SF100 form, which you can download here. Then send you Sure Start Maternity Grant form to the address provided. You can find out more about the grant on the Government website.

Healthy Start

The Healthy Start Scheme helps low income families to afford basic items such as fruit, milk and vitamins. If you qualify, you will receive vouchers on a weekly basis. These vouchers can be exchanged for the basic items and vitamins in over 30,000 shops in the UK. Once again, Scotland is exempt from this scheme. If you live in Scotland, you can apply for Best Start Foods instead.

Who can claim this?

To be eligible for the Healthy Start Scheme, you must be:

  • At least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old;
  • On one of the following benefits (this can be you or your partner):- Universal Credit (with a total earned income of £408 or less each month);
    • Job Seekers Allowance;
    • Income Support;
    • Employment and Support Allowance;
    • Pension Credit;
    • Child Tax Credit.

This scheme is also available if you are pregnant and under 18 years old, whether you receive benefits or not.

How To Claim

Simply fill out the Healthy Start Application form and send it off to the Healthy Start Issuing Unit. You can get the application by asking your midwife, calling the helpline or downloading it online. You can find out more about this scheme and download the form here.

Benefits And Financial Support For Parents

There is financial support available for parents in the UK. As children can be expensive, this bit of help throughout you baby’s childhood can help you give them the best start in life.

Benefits and financial support for parents include:

Child Benefit

This support is available for working parents and low-income families. Only one person can claim this benefit for each child, so only you or your partner can apply. Child benefit only stops when your child reaches the age of:

  • 16 or;
  • 20 if they are in approved education (find out what is approved here) or;
  • when they start work or an apprenticeship or;
  • when they start claiming their own benefits.

For your first child you will receive £21.05 a week. If you have additional children, you can receive another £13.95 a week for each additional child. Child Benefit is paid every for weeks, and there is no limit to the amount of children that you can claim for.

However, bear in mind that if you or your partner earns over £50,000 a year as an individual, you may be liable to the High Income Benefit Tax Charge. This means that some or all of your child benefit will be paid back in tax.

Who Can Claim This?

Anyone who is responsible for a child and living in the UK can claim this. Therefore you can claim whether you have a child naturally, adopt or even during fostering.

Child Benefit can be claimed until your child is 16 years old, or 20 and in certain education. You will also stop receiving Child Benefit if your child starts paid work for 24 hours a week and is no longer in education, starts an apprenticeship or starts claiming benefits in their own right. Only one person can claim this benefit for each child, so only you or your partner.

Be aware, eligibility rules can be different if your child goes into hospital/care or lives with someone else.

How To Claim

To claim you first need to decide which parent is going to claim Child Benefit. Whichever parent claims the benefit will receive National Insurance credits towards there State Pension if they are not working or are earning less than £166 a week.

Once you have decided who is claiming this benefit, you need to fill out a CH2, which you can download here. You then need to send the form to the Child Benefit Office.

If you have adopted a child or your child was born overseas, you must provide additional evidence.
You can find out more about Child Benefit on the Government website.

Child Tax Credits

Child Tax Credits are based on your income. If you are entitled you will receive up to £122.50 per week for a single child, or £210 per week for two or more children, but this is dependent on your income.

Who Can Claim?

For most people, this benefit has been replaced by Universal Credit. However, you can still claim this if you are entitled to the Severe Disability Premium.

How To Claim

To claim these tax credits, you either need to apply for Universal Credit, or call HM Revenue and Customs. You can find out more on the Government website.

Support With Childcare And Schools

Help with childcare and school costs are generally only available to low-income families, and some are only available. These scheme can help with a number of costs accompany your childrens’ education and care. Childcare and school support for parents includes:

Tax-Free Childcare Scheme

Working parents can claim some help towards childcare costs. Unlike previous schemes, this does not rely on your employer choosing to enrol.

If you are eligible for this scheme, you receive up to 20% or your childcare cost per child, for children between 2-4 years of age. This is also capped at £2,000. You can also claim up for disabled children until they are 17 years old.

You can find out more about childcare in our guide.

Who Can Claim?

Working families can claim this benefit, as long as their child is between 2-4 years old and going to approved childcare. To be eligible each parent (or just you if you are a single parent) must:

  • Be in work;
  • Not be receiving support through the Childcare Element of Working Tax Credit or Universal Credit;
  • Be an employee, self-employed or on a minimum wage;
  • Earning at least £115 a week;
  • Not be earning over £100,000;

This scheme is also available if one parent receives Employment and Support Allowance, or is a full-time carer, as long as the second parent is in work. A single parent can also claim if they receive ESA or Carer’s Allowance.

How To Claim

To claim you need to pay your contribution into a online account via the government website. Once you have put in your contribution, the government will add theirs. You can then use this to pay for your childcare.

You can find out more on the Government website.

School Transport

This benefit is provided by your Local Council, and so can be different depending on where you live. Depending on where you live you may be able to get help with, or free transport for your child to travel from home to school.

Who Can Claim?

All children are able to apply for this benefit. To receive it, your child must:

  • Be between 5 and 16;
  • Attend the nearest suitable school, which is 2 miles from home for under 8 year olds, or 3 miles from home if they are 8 years old or older.

Alternatively, if you receive the maximum Working Tax Credit, or your children get Free School Meals, they can get free school transport if they are aged between:

  • 8 to 11, and live 2 miles from their school;
  • 11 to 16, live 2 to 6 miles from their school providing there are not 3 or more suitable schools nearer to home;
  • 11 to 16, live 2 to 15 miles away, if the school is the nearest preferred based on religious or belief grounds.

Children can also receive this benefit if they cannot walk to school due to a disability, regardless of how far the school is.

If your child is between 5 and 16 and there is no safe walking route, they can also claim this benefit, so long as they go to their nearest suitable school.

How to claim

To claim this, you need to go via your local council. To find your local council website, use this page.

School Uniform Costs

School uniforms can be expensive, especially as your child is growing. But if your child does not wear the school uniform, they can be disciplined.
If you struggle with providing your children’s uniforms you may be entitled to receive help. This varies with each local council.

Who Can Claim?

There are no set rule for who can claim for school uniform costs. This very much depends on your local council. To find out what is available you will have to contact your local council.

How To Claim

If you are struggling to afford your children’s school uniforms, contact your local council to apply for help. If your council does not offer support, talk to your child’s head teacher.
You can find out you local council using this page.

Free School Meals

Low-income families can receive free school meals for their children during term times. This benefit is for England only, there is another process in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Who Can Claim?

This benefit is only available to families that have a low income. For your child to be eligible, you must be receiving one of the following benefits:

  • Income support;
  • Universal credit (and your household income is below £7,400 a year);
  • Working Tax credit;
  • Child Tax Credit (and not earning more than £16,190 a year0;
  • Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance;
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance;
  • The Guaranteed Element of Pension Credit;
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

How To Claim

You can only claim for Free School meals via your local council. To find your local council, and find out more about this scheme, you can use this page.

Additional Benefits

Depending on your individual circumstances, you may be entitled to additional benefits. These extra support structures include:

Studying With A Child

If you are a student from England with a child, you can gain additional help with the costs. These benefits include:

Parents’ Learning Allowance

If you are a full-time student with a child, you can apply for a Parents’ Learning Allowance. This does not have to be paid back and is based on your household income.

Depending on your income you can receive between £50 and £1,766 a year. This is paid in 3 instalments, one at the start of each term, and is paid on top of other student finances you receive.

Who Can Claim?

To be eligible for this benefit, you must be:

  • From England;
  • Have dependent children;
  • Studying a full-time undergraduate course OR and Initial Teacher Training Course (IIT).

How To Claim

When you are applying for student finance, you can also apply for this Allowance. You can find out more about the Parents’ Learning Allowance on the Government website.

Care To Learn

Care To Learn can help with childcare costs whilst you study. This is only available in England.
With this benefit you can receive up to £160 a week per child, if you live outside London or £175 a week per child if you live in London. These payments are sent directly to your childcare provider.

Who Can Claim?

To claim on this scheme, the following must all apply to you:

  • At the start of your course you must be under 20 years of age with a child;
  • You must be the main carer of your child;
  • Live in England;
  • You must be either a British citizen or have a legal right to live and study in England;
  • The course you are taking must qualify;
  • Your childcare provider must qualify.

You can find out how your course and childcare qualifies on this page.

How To Claim

For each year of study, you must make a new application. Before you apply for Care to Learn you must have chosen your learning provider and childcare provider.
You apply online using this page.

Childcare Grant

Another option for childcare, in England only. If you are not eligible for the Care To Learn Scheme, you may be entitles to the Childcare Grant.

This grant does not have to be paid back and can help with the cost of childcare. The amount you will receive depends on how many children are dependent on you and your household income. In general, you will receive up to 85% of your childcare costs, or a fixed amount, which ever is less. The capped amount is:

  • £174.22 a week for one child;
  • £298.69 a week for 2 or more children.

Who Can Claim?

To claim the Childcare Grant, all of the following my apply to you:

  • You must be a full-time student;
  • Your child must be under 15 (or 17 if they have special educational needs);
  • You are eligible for undergraduate student finance based on your household income;
  • You’re not receiving a Postgraduate Loan;
  • You must be a permanent resident in England;
  • The children in your application must be financially dependent on you;
  • Your childcare provider must be on the Ofsted Early Years Register or the General Childcare Register;
  • If your child is cared for at home, the carer must not be a relative and must be registered;
  • Both you and your partner must not be receiving Tax-Free Childcare, the childcare element of working Tax Credit, or Universal Credit;
  • Neither you or your partner can be receiving help with childcare costs from the NHS.

How To Claim

To apply for this grant, there are a few steps. First you need to apply online as part of your main student finance, you will then be asked to send evidence. Once you receive a letter telling you how much you will receive, you need to create an online account with the Childcare Grant Payment Service.

You can find out more about this grant on the Government website.

Parents With Disabled Children

If you are the parent of a disabled child, you can receive additional help. This support includes:

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Disability Living Allowance can help with the extra costs of a child who has difficulty walking or needs more care than a child of the same age who does not have a disability. This allowance depends on the level of help that they child needs. You can receive between £23.60 and £151.40 a week.
Be aware that, in Northern Ireland, the process for this Allowance is different to the rest of the UK.

Who Can Claim?

Although there are some exceptions, to claim DLA, the child must:

  • Be under 16;
  • Have walking difficulties or require extra care;
  • Be in Great Britain, a European Economic Area country or Switzerland;
  • Have live in Great Britain of 2 of the last 3 years if they are over 3 years old;
  • Be a UK Resident;
  • Not be subject to immigration control.

How To Claim

You can claim this benefit if you are the parent of a child that meets the above criteria, or if you look after the child as if you are the parent. You could be a step-parent, grandparent, foster-parent, guardian or older sibling.

To claim you need to fill in the DLA Claim Form, which you can find here. Alternatively you can call the DLA Helpline to ask for a printed form.

To find out more about DLA, visit the Government website.

Disabled Facilities Grant

You can receive this grant from your council if you need to make changes to your home due to your child’s disability. This grant is not solely for children with disabilities, but parents of disabled children can still apply.

What grant you will receive depends on your household income and your household savings over £6,000. The maximum amount depends on where in the UK you live.

Who Can Claim?

To claim the Disabled Facilities Grant, you must be a homeowner or tenant and intend to live in the property for the grant period. Your council must also agree that the work is necessary and appropriate to meet your disabled child’s needs. The work must also be reasonable and viable.

How To Claim

You need to go to your local council to apply for this grant. The council may send a occupational therapist to check your circumstances and to access what changes are required.

You can find out more, and how to find your local council, on the Government website.

If you are expecting a baby, there is a lot of help and support for parents, whether you are working or not. So make sure you apply for all that you are entitled to, that way you don’t need to worry about money, but instead can focus what is really important; your new arrival.