From bump to baby: understanding your benefits entitlement and financial options

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1. Child benefit

You can get child benefit if you’re responsible for a child under 16 (or under 20 if they stay in certain education courses or training programmes). The current rate is £20.50 for the eldest or only child and £13.55 per child for additional children. It’s usually paid every 4 weeks into your bank account. The claim for child benefit can only be backdated for up to 3 months. So, if you’ve just had a baby, make sure you submit your claim before your baby is 3 months old.

Read more about child benefit on Gov.UK.

2. NHS prescriptions and dental care

These are free while you’re pregnant and until your baby is 1 year old. Children also get free prescriptions until they’re 16.

To claim your free prescriptions, ask your doctor or midwife for Form FW8 and send it to your health authority, who in turn, will send you an exemption certificate that lasts for a year after your due date. If you’re only claiming after your baby is born, you’ll need to fill in Form A in leaflet P11 NHS Prescriptions, which you can get from your doctor or JobCentre Plus.

To claim your free dental care, all you have to do is tick the relevant box on the form provided by your dentist or show your exemption certificate.

3. Healthy start vouchers

Basically… free milk, infant formula, fruit and vegetables, and vitamins. Not everyone qualifies though. You’ll qualify if you’re under 18 and pregnant; otherwise, you’ll need to be at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4 and you or your family are on certain benefits (for example, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, etc).

To check if you qualify, visit the NHS Healthy Start website.

4. Tax credits

There are two types of tax credit: child tax credit, which gives financial support for children, and working tax credit, which gives financial support for people in lower-paid jobs. If your household income is more than £26,000 (for a family with one child) or £32,600 (for a family with 2 children), you might not qualify for tax credits. But, whether you can actually get tax credits will depend on your circumstances. Use the tax credit questionnaire and the tax credit calculator as your starting point. If you’re still unsure, call the HMRC Tax Credit Helpline.

If you qualify for working tax credit, you could also get extra tax credits to help with the costs of childcare while you’re working. Read more about childcare and tax credits on Gov.UK.

5. Sure start maternity grant

Sure start maternity grant is a one-off payment of £500 to help towards the costs of having a child. You usually qualify if you’re expecting your first child (or multiple birth and have children already) and you’re on certain benefits (for example, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, etc). You must submit your claim within 11 weeks of your baby’s due date or within 3 months after your baby is born.

Read more about sure start maternity grant on Gov.UK.

6. Childcare

If you’re planning to return to work fairly soon after the birth of your baby (like me), you might want to think in advance about childcare as it can take some time for you to find a satisfactory arrangement. For example, if you want to send your baby to the nursery, you’ll want to start looking from as early as the second trimester; from what I heard, places (at both state and private nurseries) get filled up incredibly quickly. Or maybe, nursery is not an option because you may have a demanding career that requires you to work long hours (again, like me) and you just can’t commit yourself to sending and picking up your baby at a fixed hour each day. In that case, you might want to think about hiring someone to look after your baby at home – a nanny, childminder, or perhaps you have a relative who’s willing to help? And of course, you’ll have to consider the costs – whichever way you do it (unless you have an incredibly supportive and generous relative), childcare is expensive! Be prepared to pay around £150 – £200 a week for it, and that’s a conservative figure according to everyone I spoke to (I’m talking about London, of course).

Here are a few websites you can use as a starting point in your research:

7. Life insurance

Now that you have a baby, you probably should start looking into life insurance (if you don’t already have one). You’ve got to think about your family well-being if something should happen to you. There are quite a number of reputable companies out there; so do your research. In the meantime, you could sign up to a £10,000 free life cover which takes effect from the day you apply until your baby’s first birthday from companies such Post Office. Asda used to offer it as well but I can’t seem to find it on their website now.

8. Junior investment

Once you’ve got your life insurance sorted out, you might also want to start thinking about investing for your child’s future with the Junior Individual Savings Account (Junior ISA), be it a cash Junior ISA or a stocks and shares Junior ISA. You can open an account with any banks, building societies, credit unions, friendly societies and stock brokers.

Read more about Junior ISA on Gov.UK.

9. Useful websites you can (and probably should) refer to:

Maternity and paternity benefits and leave on the NHS’s website and Gov.UK, which contains every possible information you need to know.

PS: If you’re an employee, you might also be interested in this article: “From bump to baby: your rights and entitlements at work”