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Financial support for families and student parents

Financial support for families and student parentsThere are a number of financial support packages available to help parents at different stages of raising a family. These include child benefits, tax credits and support for childcare costs if you are studying, training or working. Read on for advice on where to claim financial help for your family...

What benefits are available?

Anyone responsible for a child can claim this. 

Tax Credits are based on:

  • Whether you work
  • Whether you have children
  • How much you earn

There are two kinds of tax credit: Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit.

  • If you work but are on a low income, you can get Working Tax Credit.
  • If you qualify for Working Tax Credit and have children, you may also be able to claim for help with childcare costs.
  • If you have children, you can claim for Child Tax Credit even if you are not in work.

Only one person can claim Child Tax Credit for each child. If you're a student, you can't claim the childcare component of the Working Tax Credit and the Childcare Grant.

  • Income Support

Single parents not working or working less than 16 hours a week on a low income can claim this. Also parents who are under 19, in full-time education and on a low income. Find out more from your local Jobcentre Plus.

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

If you are part of a low income family in which no-one is working more than 16 hours per week, but at least one adult is seeking work, you can claim this. Find out more from your local Jobcentre Plus.

  • Housing Benefit

You may claim this is you are on a low income and you pay rent. Find out more from your local Jobcentre Plus.

  • Council Tax Benefit

This can be claimed by the person paying the council tax and on a low income. Find out more from your local Jobcentre Plus.

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Healthcare benefits

  • Free prescriptions

You can get free prescriptions if you are pregnant or within one year of birth, are under 16 or 19 years of age and in full-time education, or if members of your family are on a low income and receiving certain benefits. Prescriptions are also free to everyone in Wales. To be eligible, complete the back of the prescription. If you are on tax credits you should automatically receive an exemption certificate.

  • Free eye tests and vouchers for glasses

Children under 16 or 19 who are in full-time education should be able to claim this. Also eligible are family members receiving income support, jobseeker’s allowance and, in some cases, tax credits. For children, complete the form at the opticians. If on low income, get an HC1 form from the optician or Jobcentre Plus.

  • Free dental treatment

You will be eligible if you are pregnant or within one year of giving birth. Children under 16 and family members getting income support, jobseeker’s allowance and, in some cases, tax credits, are also eligible. To benefit, complete the form at the dentist. If you are on a low income, get an AG1/HC1 form from the dentist or Jobcentre Plus.

  • Widowed parent’s allowance

Bereaved wives, husbands or civil partners responsible for one or more children, whose partner paid enough National Insurance can claim this. Find out more from your local Jobcentre Plus.

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Financial support during pregnancy

  • Statutory maternity pay (SMP)

Expectant and new mums who work are eligible for this benefit, which your employer should be able to tell you more about. It is the equivalent to 39 weeks’ wages paid while on maternity leave.

  • Maternity allowance

This is for expectant and new mums who work but can’t claim SMP because your income is very low or you are self-employed, for example.

  • Statutory paternity pay

New dads who work can get two weeks’ pay while on paternity leave.

Anyone on certain benefits with children under four, as well as pregnant women under 18, can claim vouchers for fruit, veg, milk and free vitamins.

  • Sure Start maternity grant

Get a lump sum of £500 if you are a new or expectant mum on a low income. Find out more at Jobcentre Plus.

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Additional financial support for students with children

As well as specific financial support, parents also have some of their income ignored when working out other student finance entitlements.

If you're doing an NHS-funded degree, you might get similar financial support from the NHS. 

  • The Parents’ Learning Allowance

The Parents’ Learning Allowance is to help with course-related costs for students who have dependent children. How much you get depends on your household income (including your husband, wife or partner) – your Local Education Authority will be able to advise you on how much help you might get. Jobcentre Plus will not count this grant when they work out your benefit entitlement. For 2015-16 the amount is up to £1,573 a year.

  • Childcare grant

This is a grant for full-time students with dependent children in registered or approved childcare. How much help you get is based on your actual childcare costs and will depend on your household income. Any help you get will not be counted by Jobcentre Plus in working out your benefit entitlement. For one child you could get up to £155.24 a week, and up to £266.15 a week for two or more children.

You can't claim both the Childcare Grant and the childcare component of the Working Tax Credit.

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Financial support when your child is at school

  • Free part-time early education place

Claim this if you live in England and have children aged three to four years old.

  • Travel to school

This is for children under eight years old travelling two or more miles to school and older children travelling at least three miles. You can find out more by contacting your local education authority.

  • School meals

If you are on a low income and receive certain benefits, you can get free mid-day meals for your child. Speak to your local education authority for more information.

  • School uniform grant

Parents on a low income may be eligible for this grant that pays toward the cost of a child’s school uniform. Speak to your local education authority for more information.

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