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Benefits for families and children

Help for families and children

There are several different benefits for families to help with the extra costs of children. These include benefits for women who are pregnant or who have just had their baby, benefits for the partners of women who have given birth, benefits for people who adopt, and benefits, tax credits and other help which you may be able to get when you have responsibility for a child or young person.

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Benefits for maternity

If you're having a baby, you may be able to get Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance. This will depend on whether you work and, if you do, how much you earn and how long you have worked for the same employer. If you're pregnant, you may be entitled to free vitamins and Healthy Start vouchers to help with the cost of milk, fruit and vegetables.  Whether or not you can get this help may depend on your income.

For more information about Healthy Start vouchers for milk, fruit and vegetables, see Help with health, education and legal costs.

Statutory Maternity Pay

You can get Statutory Maternity Pay if you have been working for the same employer for at least 26 weeks, by the time you are 15 weeks away from the date your baby is due. This means that you must have worked for the same employer throughout your pregnancy. You should also earn at least as much as the lower earnings limit each week. The lower earnings limit is the level of wages where national insurance contributions start.

Statutory Maternity Pay is paid by your employer if you are away from work to have a baby. It can be paid for up to 39 weeks.

For information about Statutory Maternity Pay, see Parental rights at work.

Maternity Allowance

Maternity Allowance is a benefit for women who have been working but who do not meet the work and earnings conditions for Statutory Maternity Pay. A woman can also claim maternity allowance if she has worked for her employed spouse or civil partner’s business, but was not employed or self-employed herself.

Who can get Maternity Allowance - women who have been employed or self-employed

You can get Maternity Allowance if you have been working recently or you have stopped working to have a child. You must meet all of the following conditions:

  • you must have been working for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the week in which you are due to give birth. It does not matter if these weeks are split up, or if they are not all for the same employer
  • you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay
  • you have been earning at least £30 a week on average. This can be from employed work or self-employed work
  • you must still be pregnant, or have given birth to a live baby, by the start of the eleventh week before the week in which your baby is due, or you must have given birth to a stillborn baby after the end of the 24th week of pregnancy.

Maternity Allowance does not depend on national insurance contributions. You won't have to pay back your Maternity Allowance if you decide not to return to work.

Who can get Maternity Allowance - women who have not been employed or self-employed, but have worked for a self-employed spouse or civil partner’s business

You can get Maternity Allowance if you have been working recently for your self-employed spouse or civil partner’s business or you have stopped doing this work to have a child. You do not need to have earned anything. You must meet all the following conditions:

  • you must still be pregnant, or you must have given birth to a live baby, by the start of the eleventh week before the week in which your baby is due, or you must have given birth to a stillborn baby after the end of the 24th week of pregnancy
  • you must be expecting to give birth in the week starting on 27 July 2014 or later than this
  • you must have worked with someone who at the time was your spouse or civil partner and was self-employed
  • you must have worked with them for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the week in which you are due to give birth. The 26 weeks do not have to be in a row, and working for part of a week counts as one whole week
  • they must be liable to pay national insurance contributions for self-employed people for these 26 weeks
  • you’re not entitled to maternity allowance for the same week and the same pregnancy because of your own employed or self-employed work. If you’ve been employed or self-employed, you may be able to claim maternity allowance as an employed or self-employed person instead
  • you’re not entitled to statutory maternity pay for the same week and the same pregnancy.

You won't have to pay back your Maternity Allowance if you decide not to return to work.

How much is Maternity Allowance

The amount of Maternity Allowance you get is either 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings or £136.78 a week, whichever is less. From 7 April 2014, the amount you get is either 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings or £138.18 a week, whichever is less.

If you haven’t been employed or self-employed, but you’ve worked for a self-employed spouse or civil partner’s business, your Maternity Allowance is £27 a week. It’s also £27 a week if you’re self-employed and you’ve got a small earnings exception certificate.

How to claim Maternity Allowance

You should claim Maternity Allowance on form MA1 which you can get:

  • in England, Wales and Scotland, by phoning Jobcentre Plus on: freephone 0800 055 6688 or textphone 0800 023 4888. There is also a Welsh language line number which is 0800 012 1888
  • in England, Wales and Scotland, from the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.
  • in Northern Ireland, by phoning the Incapacity Benefits Branch on 028 9033 6000 or the benefit enquiry line on: 0800 243 787, or by downloading the form the NI Direct website at: www.nidirect.gov.uk.
  • from antenatal clinics
  • from local benefits offices.

You should return the form to your local benefits office. You will need medical evidence of your pregnancy, usually your maternity certificate (MATB1). If you claim Maternity Allowance after your baby is born, you should provide the birth certificate. If you are employed, you also have to provide Form SMP1 from your employer, which confirms that you are not entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay.

You can claim at any time once you are 26 weeks pregnant. If you claim late, you can get Maternity Allowance up to three months before you claim if you could have qualified for benefit earlier. It does not matter why your claim is late.

When you claim Maternity Allowance, you have to provide your national insurance number. You will normally also have to give the national insurance number of your husband, civil partner or other adult who looks after your children if you are claiming an additional amount for this person. If you do not know your number, but you think you have one, you should provide evidence that will help the benefits office to identify your number. If you do not have a national insurance number, you will have to apply for one.

For information on how to apply for a national insurance number, see National insurance – contributions and benefits.

How long is Maternity Allowance paid for

If you’ve been employed or self-employed, you can get Maternity Allowance for up to 39 weeks. If you haven’t been employed or self-employed, but you’ve worked for a self-employed spouse or civil partner’s business, you can get Maternity Allowance for 14 weeks. The earliest it can start to be paid is the 11th week before your baby is due. The latest it can start is just after your baby is born. There are rules about when your Maternity Allowance has to start being paid if you are not working, or you are not entitled to Maternity Allowance until later in your pregnancy.

If you want more information about when your Maternity Allowance will be paid, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Problems with Maternity Allowance

If your Maternity Allowance claim is refused when you think you are entitled, or you get less benefit than you think you should, you can challenge the decision. You should do this within one month of the decision.

If you are not happy with the service provided by the benefits office, for example, because of mistakes or delays, you can complain. You can do this whether or not you also want to challenge a decision.

It's against the law for you to be treated unfairly because of your race, sex, sexuality, religion or disability when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decides about your claim for Maternity Allowance. Also, the DWP has a policy which says it will not discriminate against you because of other things, for example, if you have caring responsibilities. If you feel that you've been discriminated against, you can make a complaint about this.

For more information about challenging a benefit decision and about complaining, see Problems with benefits and tax credits.

If you want to challenge a Maternity Allowance decision or you want to complain you can also consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

If you cannot get Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance

If you are not entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance, you may be able to claim other benefits instead.

If you are pregnant or you have had recently had a baby, you may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This will depend on the stage of your pregnancy and whether there would be a risk to your health or your baby's health if you worked. You may be able to claim Income Support instead. You can claim Income Support once you are 29 weeks’ pregnant, or earlier if you are incapable of work because of your pregnancy. Before this, if you are capable of work, you could claim Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The rules about the benefits you can claim in pregnancy and early maternity are complicated. If you are pregnant or have just had a baby and you do not think you can claim Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Benefits for paternity

Statutory Paternity Pay

If you are a working father, or the partner of a woman having a child (including a same-sex partner), you may be able to get Statutory Paternity Pay for two weeks during your paternity leave. You can also get Statutory Paternity Pay for paternity leave you take when you are adopting a child.

For more information about paternity rights and pay, see Parental rights at work.

Income Support during paternity leave

If you are not entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay – perhaps because you have not worked for long enough - you may not be able to claim any paid paternity leave. You should check what rights you have under your contract of employment. If you are on statutory paternity leave but you do not get any Statutory Paternity Pay or payment from your employer, or you get Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit or tax credits when you are working, you may be entitled to Income Support during your paternity leave. You may also get this if you get some Statutory Paternity Pay but at a very low level.

The rules about benefits and paternity leave are complicated. If you are on a low income and you are not able to get any sort of paternity pay, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Paternity and Jobseeker’s Allowance

If you are a member of a couple and you have a joint claim with your partner for Jobseeker’s Allowance, your partner’s pregnancy may mean that only you have to sign on. Your partner may possibly also be able to claim Income Support for both of you until a few weeks after she has the baby, instead of Jobseeker's Allowance. Once the child is born, or if you adopt a child, you do not both have to sign on for Jobseeker’s Allowance and only one of you has to meet the job seeking conditions. If you usually claim Income Support, your right to benefit is not affected by your partner being pregnant.

The rules about how having a child affects Income Support and Jobseeker’s Allowance are complicated. If you are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance as a couple and your partner is pregnant, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Parental leave

If you are taking parental leave to look after your children, you may be entitled to Income Support if your employer is not paying you anything, and you usually get Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit or tax credits when you are working. Men and women both have the right to take unpaid time off work as parental leave if they have worked for their employer for one year.

For more information about parental leave, see Parental rights at work.

If you want to find out about getting Income Support during parental leave, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Benefits for adoption

If you work and you are adopting a child, you may be able to get Statutory Adoption Pay.

For more information about Statutory Adoption Pay, see Parental rights at work.

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Help with the costs of a new baby – maternity grants from the Social Fund

If you get benefits or tax credits because you are on a low income, you may be able to get a maternity grant from the Social Fund (also called a Sure Start maternity grant) to help with the costs of a new baby. It does not matter what you spend the money on, and the grant does not have to be repaid. A maternity grant is a fixed amount of £500. You can only get a maternity grant if the new baby is the only child under 16 in the household. Different rules apply if you have twins or more babies.

You can get a maternity grant if you meet one of these conditions. Your child must be aged 12 months or under when you make the claim and you must be responsible for the child:

  • you or your partner are pregnant, or have given birth
  • you're the parent (but not the mother) of the baby or you are responsible for that parent, and you are responsible for the baby. The parents must not be partners when you make the claim
  • you've been given an adoption order or child arrangements order granting you residence for a child (in Scotland and Northern Ireland, a residence order)
  • you've been appointed as guardian of the baby
  • you've had a baby by a surrogate mother and you’ve been given a parental order
  • an adoption agency has placed a baby with you for adoption
  • you've adopted a baby from overseas.

You can get a maternity grant if you or your partner get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit or universal credit at the time of the claim. If you are an asylum seeker supported by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS), you cannot get a maternity grant but you can apply to NASS for a one-off payment of £300. In this case, you must apply before your baby is two weeks old.

If you get Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit, you can get a maternity grant if you get Child Tax Credit at a rate higher than the family element or Working Tax Credit where there is entitlement to a disability element.  If your income drops because you are taking time off to have a baby, it may be worth asking the Tax Credit office to reassess your tax credit entitlement based on your current year income. You may then find you are entitled to a maternity grant.

You should claim a maternity grant on form SF100 (Sure Start) which is available from local benefit offices or antenatal clinics, or, in England, Wales and Scotland, you can get the form online at www.gov.uk.

In Northern Ireland application forms can be downloaded from nidirect’s website at www.nidirect.co.uk.

If you or your partner are pregnant, you can claim a maternity grant from the eleventh week before the baby is due and up to three months after the baby is born.

You can only claim a maternity grant up to three months after the date of:

  • an adoption, residence or parental order
  • becoming responsible for the baby, if you are the parent, but not the mother, of the baby or you are responsible for that parent and for the baby, and the parents are not partners
  • becoming the baby's guardian
  • an adoption agency placing a baby with you 
  • adopting a baby from overseas.

You will need to provide evidence that you have received the advice of a health professional on the health and welfare needs of your baby.

If your claim for maternity grant is refused and you think you are entitled, you can challenge the decision. You should do this within one month of the decision. You can also complain if you are unhappy with the service from the benefits office, for example, if there is a delay.

It's against the law for you to be treated unfairly because of your race, sex, sexuality, religion or disability when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Social Security Agency in Northern Ireland decide about your claim for a maternity grant. Also, the DWP has a policy which says it will not discriminate against you because of other things, for example, if you have caring responsibilities. If you feel that you've been discriminated against, you can make a complaint.

For more information about challenging a decision about a maternity grant, see Problems with benefits and tax credits.

If you want help challenging a maternity grant decision or making a complaint you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Benefits for children

The main benefits for children are Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit. Most people living in the UK can claim Child Benefit for their children (see under heading Child Benefit). If a child’s parents cannot look after a child, the person who does care for the child may be able to claim Guardian’s Allowance as well (see under Guardian’s Allowance).

Many parents can also claim Child Tax Credit for their children. You may be able to get this whether or not you are working, depending on your income and how many children you have (see under heading Child Tax Credit). If you have a child who is disabled, you may be able to get extra money included in your benefits, and you may be able to claim Disability Living Allowance in respect of your child (see under Disability Living Allowance).

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Child Benefit

Child Benefit is a tax-free benefit paid to most people with children. You do not need to have paid any national insurance contributions to get Child Benefit and you can get it regardless of your income. However, if you are getting Child Benefit and have income above a certain level, you may have to pay extra tax because you are getting Child Benefit. For more information, see Child Benefit and tax if you have a high income.

Who can get Child Benefit

You can get Child Benefit if you are responsible for a child aged under 16, or a young person aged under 20 if they are still in full-time education up to A level or equivalent, or on certain approved training courses. In England, you can also get it for a young person who is on a 16-19 study programme. You may also get Child Benefit for a young person who has been accepted on a course. This means that most parents can get Child Benefit, but you can also get it if you are bringing up a child and you are not the biological parent. You cannot usually get Child Benefit for a child you are fostering.

You get Child Benefit for each child you are responsible for. Usually, you and your child have to be living in the UK to claim Child Benefit. If you do not live in the UK, you leave the UK for more than a few weeks, or your child is not living in the UK, the rules are complicated and you may need to get advice.

You cannot usually claim Child Benefit for a child who is in local authority care or in prison.

If the child dies

If a child or young person for whom Child Benefit was being paid dies, you will carry on getting Child Benefit for eight weeks after the week in which they die. You might stop getting Child Benefit before eight weeks if the young person would have reached the age of 20 before the end of eight weeks.

If a child dies before the end of the week in which they were born, you can claim Child Benefit for the eight weeks after the week when the child dies.

Child Benefit if you have a high income

From 7 January 2013, if you're a higher-income family getting Child Benefit, you'll have to pay extra tax.

For more information about Child Benefit and higher-income families, see Child Benefit and tax if you have a high income.

How much is Child Benefit

Child Benefit is paid at a higher rate for your oldest child and at one rate for all your other children.

Weekly rateFrom 6 April 2013From 7 April 2014
Child Benefit for oldest child£20.30£20.50
Child Benefit for other children£13.40£13.55

How to apply for Child Benefit

You claim Child Benefit by completing form CH2 which you can get from the Child Benefit Office or on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk. The Child Benefit Office number is 0300 200 3100 (textphone 0300 200 3103) in England, Wales and Scotland, and 0845 603 2000 in Northern Ireland.

When you claim Child Benefit, you will have to provide your national insurance number, or information to help the office find your number. If you do not have a national insurance number, send the form in anyway, to avoid delays.

For information on how to get a national insurance number, see National insurance – contributions and benefits.

Getting Child Benefit for a period before you apply

You can get Child Benefit for up to three months before the date you make your claim. This is called backdating. You can only do this if you met the conditions for the benefit before you claim. You should explain on your claim form when your entitlement to child benefit started (for example, when your child was born). It does not matter why you did not claim earlier.

If you want help with claiming backdated Child Benefit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Checks on Child Benefit, change of circumstances and fraud

You can report changes of circumstances that might affect your benefit using a secure internet connection on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk. Changes you must report include:

  • change of address or bank details
  • if your child turns 16 and stays on or leaves full-time education or training
  • if you go abroad for more than four weeks.

You may commit a benefit fraud if you deliberately give incorrect or misleading information, or fail to report a change of circumstances which could affect your Child Benefit, for example, if you have a child over 16 who leaves school and starts work. Even if you are not committing fraud, you can cause an overpayment which will have to be repaid. Your circumstances can be checked at any time while you are claiming. Benefit fraud is a criminal offence and you can be prosecuted or asked to pay a penalty.

For more information on what to do if you are asked to attend an interview under caution, see Problems with benefits and tax credits.

If you are worried about whether you might be suspected of fraud, you are under investigation or you have been convicted, or if you have been asked to repay an overpayment of benefit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens’ Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

How is Child Benefit paid

Child Benefit is paid by the Child Benefit Office, which is part of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). If you live with the other parent of your children, Child Benefit is paid to the mother. If you do not live with the other parent, Child Benefit is usually paid to whichever parent the child lives with. If more than one person claims Child Benefit for the same child, there are rules about who should be paid the benefit.

Problems with Child Benefit

The process for challenging a Child Benefit decision depends on when it was made. If you are not happy with a Child Benefit decision made on or after 6 April 2014, you must ask for a mandatory reconsideration of the decision before you can appeal. You must do this within one month of the date of the decision.

If the decision was made before 6 April 2014, you may be able to use the old appeals process in some cases. This means you can ask for the decision to be looked at again, or go straight to appeal. To find out if you are able to do this you can get advice from an experienced adviser. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Some decisions about Child Benefit cannot be appealed, for example, a decision about who should receive Child Benefit when two people have claimed it.

If you are not happy with the service provided by the Child Benefit Office, for example, because of mistakes or delays, you can complain. You can do this whether or not you also want to challenge a decision.

It's against the law for you to be treated unfairly because of your race, sex, sexuality, religion or disability when the Child Benefit Office deals with your claim for Child Benefit. Also, the Child Benefit Office is part of HM Revenue and Customs, which has a policy saying it won't discriminate against you because of other things. This includes things like if you are a carer. If you feel that you've been discriminated against, you can make a complaint about this.

For more information about challenging a benefit decision and about complaining, see Problems with benefits and tax credits.

If you want to challenge a Child Benefit decision or you want to complain you can also consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Guardian’s Allowance

Guardian’s allowance is a tax-free benefit which you can claim if you look after a child who is not your own (biologically or by adoption) and the child's parents have died. In some cases, you can get it if there is one surviving parent but that parent can't look after the child for a specified reason. So, you may be able to get Guardian’s Allowance if you look after a child who is an orphan, or whose surviving parent is missing or in prison, or whose adoptive parent has died. You can only get it if you receive Child Benefit for the child.

Guardian's Allowance is paid by the Child Benefit Office (part of HM Revenue and Customs).

Guardian’s Allowance is paid at the rate of £16.35 each week for each qualifying child (from 7 April 2014).

If you are not sure whether you can claim Guardian’s Allowance, you can contact the Guardian's Allowance helpline. The contact details are on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

You can claim Guardian’s Allowance on form BG1 which you can get from the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk or by phoning the Guardian's Allowance helpline. If you have not already claimed Child Benefit, you should claim this at the same time as Guardian’s Allowance. You will have to supply a national insurance number or information to identify your number, or apply for a national insurance number if you have not got one. If you met the conditions for Guardian's Allowance before you make the claim, you can get up to three months’ backdated benefit.

For more information about national insurance numbers, see National insurance – contributions and benefits.

You can find more information about Guardian's Allowance on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

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Help for disabled children

One of my children is disabled. I'm a single parent and I can't work because my child needs a lot of care. Can I get any extra financial help? English isn't my first language and I can't really understand what all the forms say.

Normally, as a single parent, you stop getting income support once your youngest child is five. However, if you are caring for a disabled child you should be able to continue to get income support. You might also get some extra financial help because your child is disabled. Your local benefits office may be able to give you a leaflet explaining everything in your own language. If you need an interpreter to make your claim for Income Support, one should be provided. If they don't provide this help, get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

If you are responsible for a disabled child, you may be able to get Disability Living Allowance for the child. You may also be able to get extra amounts when other means-tested benefits are calculated - for example, in Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction. You may also be entitled to extra amounts in the calculation of Child Tax Credit (see under heading Child Tax Credit).

For more information about Housing Benefit, see Help with your rent – Housing Benefit, and for information about Council Tax Reduction, see Council Tax Reduction - what you need to know.

Disability Living Allowance

You can get Disability Living Allowance for a child who has care needs or mobility problems. Care needs include help with washing and dressing, and mobility problems having difficulty walking at an age when most children would not need help. Children under 16 cannot claim Disability Living Allowance in their own right, so usually you will claim this for your child if you are their parent or guardian.

For more information about Disability Living Allowance, including special rules for children, see Benefits for people who are sick or disabled.

Further help if you have a disabled child

If you have a disabled child, make sure that you're getting all the other help you have a right to. For example, the council may help with care. There are transport and parking concessions that might help with your child's travel. There are special rules about education for disabled children.

For more information about help from the council, see Community care.

For more information about transport and parking concessions, see Transport options for disabled people.

For more information about the education of disabled children in England, see Special Educational Needs and in Scotland, see The parents' guide to additional support for learning.

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Child Tax Credit

Child Tax Credit is a payment for people with children, whether they are in or out of work. It is paid by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). You can get Child Tax Credit if your income is low enough and you are responsible for at least one child. You will get money from Child Tax Credit for each child. You do not need to have a very low income to get some help from Child Tax Credit, so many people with children can get it.

You can find information about Child Tax Credit on the HMRC website at www.hmrc.gov.uk.

Who can get Child Tax Credit

You can get Child Tax Credit if you are 16 or over and you are responsible for at least one child. This means a child under 16, or a young person up to the age of 20 who is in full-time education up to A level or equivalent, or on an approved training course, or on a 16-19 study programme. You may also get Child Tax Credit for a young person who has been accepted on one of these courses. You can also get Child Tax Credit for a young person aged under 18 who has registered with the Careers Service, if they have left school within the last 20 weeks.

Financial eligibility

The amount of Child Tax Credit you get will depend on your circumstances and your income. If you live with your partner, your incomes will be added together when your claim is assessed. Gross income means what your income is before tax and national insurance are deducted.

Savings do not affect your entitlement directly but, if you are getting interest from your savings, this is counted as income and will affect the amount of Child Tax Credit due.

Some of your income will not be taken into account when your Child Tax Credit is being worked out. Child Benefit, maintenance payments, Maternity Allowance will be disregarded together with most Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay.

If the child or young person dies

If you claim Child Tax Credit for a child and they die, you carry on qualifying for tax credit at the same rate for eight weeks immediately following the death, or until the date when the young person would have been 20, whichever comes first.

How much Child Tax Credit will you get

The maximum amount of Child Tax Credit you can get is based on your circumstances, but you may get less than this depending on your income. The maximum amount is made up of different elements.

The first element of Child Tax Credit is a family element which can be paid to a family with responsibility for one or more children.

You can also get a child element for each child or young person in your family. You get the same amount regardless of the age of the child. There are extra amounts for children who are disabled and these are paid on top of the child element. If your child is registered blind or entitled to Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment, you will be able to get the disabled child element. If your child is entitled to the highest rate care component of Disability Living Allowance or the enhanced rate of the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment, you will get the severely disabled child element as well.

The tax credit calculation is complicated. If you would like to know how much you might get, you can use the calculator on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk or look at the Tax Credits Entitlement Tables at www.gov.uk. Or contact an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Rates of Child Tax Credit

 

Maximum amount of Child Tax Credit a year

from 6 April 2013

Maximum amount of Child Tax Credit a year

from 6 April 2014

Family element£545£545
Child element:  
For each child£2,720£2,750
For each disabled child£3,015£3,100
For each severely disabled child£1,220£1,255

How to apply for Child Tax Credit

To apply for Child Tax Credit, you can contact the tax credit helpline for an application pack. The application form for your first claim is Form TC600. You apply for Working Tax Credit on the same form. You should answer all the questions on the application form in case you are able to get Working Tax Credit as well. The helpline number is 0345 300 3900 (textphone 0345 300 3909).

The application form requires a lot of information, including your income for the previous tax year. Remember, if your income is going to be very different for the current tax year let the HMRC know. If you have problems filling in the form, you can consult the notes that come with it, phone the tax credit helpline, or consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

It is also important to keep as much evidence of your personal circumstances as you can. You should keep P60s (or P45s if you have left a job), statements about any benefits you receive and statements from your bank or building society about any savings. Any documentation about your income or capital will help you to fill in the form.

When you apply for Child Tax Credit, you will have to provide your national insurance number. You will normally also have to give the national insurance number of any partner who lives with you. If you do not know your national insurance number, but you think you have one, try to provide information that will help the office find your number. If you do not have a national insurance number, you will have to apply for one.

For information on how to apply for a national insurance number, see National insurance – contributions and benefits.

Once you have made your claim for tax credits, you can go online to find out how long it will take to get a response from HMRC. Use the 'Where's my reply?' service at www.hmrc.gov.uk

Getting Child Tax Credit backdated

You may be able to get some Child Tax Credit for a period before you apply, if you met the conditions and could have claimed earlier. Getting tax credit for a period before you apply is called ‘backdating’. You can normally only get Child Tax Credit backdated for a maximum of one month before the date you apply. You do not have to give any reasons why you did not claim earlier. You should ask for backdated tax credit on your application form.

If you want any help with claiming backdated Child Tax Credit, you should contact an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Checks on Child Tax Credit and fraud

You may commit tax credit fraud if you deliberately give incorrect or misleading information when you claim, or fail to report a change of circumstances. Even if you are not committing fraud, you can cause an overpayment which will have to be repaid and you may have to pay a penalty. Your circumstances can be checked at any time while you are claiming. HMRC can ask you to supply bank statements and other evidence, and they may interview you. Tax credit fraud is a criminal offence and you can be prosecuted or made to pay a fine.

For more information on what to do if you are asked to attend an interview under caution, see Problems with benefits and tax credits.

For more information about tax credit overpayments, in England, Wales and Scotland, see Overpayment of tax credits in Benefits fact sheets.

For more information, in England, Wales and Scotland, about reporting a change of circumstances, see Tax credits – reporting a change in circumstances, in Benefits fact sheets.

If you are worried about whether you might be suspected of fraud, you are under investigation or you have been convicted, or you want advice about an overpayment of tax credit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens’ Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

How is Child Tax Credit paid

Child Tax Credit can be paid directly into your bank or building society account, or into a post office account. If you do not give HMRC details of an account, you may lose your entitlement to Child Tax Credit. If you have difficulties opening an account, you should get in touch with HMRC and explain. Child Tax Credit will be paid to the main carer in the family. If you are part of a couple, the main carer is usually the person getting Child Benefit.

For more information about payment of benefits and tax credits, see Payment of benefits and tax credits.

If you have problems with the payment of Child Tax Credit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Change of circumstances and overpayments of tax credits

Tax credits are awarded for a complete tax year. A tax year runs from 6 April one year to 5 April the following year. If you claim after 6 April, your award will run from the date you claim to the following 5 April. If your circumstances change during the period of your award you should tell HMRC as soon as possible. This is important because otherwise you may not be paid all the tax credit you are entitled to (an underpayment), or you may be paid too much and have to pay it back to HMRC (an overpayment). Some changes to your circumstances mean that your award ends and you have to claim again. Other changes mean that your award continues but it will be recalculated, and some will not affect your current award at all.

For more information about overpayments, in England, Wales and Scotland, see, Overpayment of tax credits in Benefits fact sheets.

Problems with Child Tax Credit

If you are refused Child Tax Credit and think you are entitled, or that the amount you are awarded is wrong, call the Tax Credits Helpline and ask HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to explain their decision. If you're not satisfied with the explanation, you can make a formal request for the decision to be looked at again. This is called a mandatory reconsideration. You must ask for a reconsideration within 30 days of the date of the decision. If you're not satisfied with the result of the reconsideration, you can then appeal to an independent tribunal. An HMRC fact sheet, 'What to do if you think your Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit is wrong', is available on the HMRC website at www.hmrc.gov.uk.

If you're unhappy with the service you have received from HMRC, for example, because there have been long delays or they have lost documents you sent to them, you should complain. You can do this whether or not you are also challenging a HMRC decision.

It's against the law for you to be treated unfairly because of your race, sex, religion, sexuality or disability when HMRC decide about your claim for Child Tax Credit. Also, they have a policy which says they will not discriminate against you because of other things, for example, if you have caring responsibilities. If you feel that you've been discriminated against, you can make a complaint about this.

For more information about making a complaint about HMRC, see Problems with benefits and tax credits.

If you are not happy with a Child Tax Credit decision or you want to make a complaint you can also consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Other help while you are on Child Tax Credit

When you get Child Tax Credit, you may be entitled to other financial help. If you pay rent, you may be able to get Housing Benefit. If you have to pay Council Tax, you may be able to get Council Tax Reduction. Child Tax Credit is taken into account as income for both these benefits which means that it affects the amount of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction you can get.

For more information about Housing Benefit, see Help with your rent – Housing Benefit, and for more information about Council Tax Tax Reduction, see Council Tax Reduction – what you need to know.

Being on Child Tax Credit may also give you other help. For example, you may be entitled to health benefits, including free prescriptions. You may also be able get help with the costs of a new baby from a Sure Start maternity grant (see under heading Help with the costs of a new baby – maternity grants from the Social Fund), help with the costs of a funeral from a funeral payment or free school meals. If you are pregnant or bringing up a young child, you may be entitled to free vitamins and vouchers to help with the cost of milk, fruit and vegetables. Whether or not you can get this help will depend on your income, and whether you also get Working Tax Credit.

For more information about health benefits, see Help with health, education and legal costs, and for more information about funeral payments, see Help for people on a low income – the Social Fund.

If you have any queries about additional help you can get while you are on Child Tax Credit, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Help with the costs of childcare

Child Tax Credit does not include any help with the costs of childcare. However, Working Tax Credit does include some help towards childcare. If you are working and you are on a low income, you may be entitled to Working Tax Credit.

For more information about Working Tax Credit, see Benefits and tax credits for people in work.

If you are not getting Working Tax Credit, there may be other help with childcare you can access. For example, if you are under 18, you may be able to get help with the costs of childcare if you go back to school. If you are on the Work Programme, the organisation providing the Work Programme may be able to help with your childcare costs.

Childcare vouchers

If you are working, your employer may offer childcare support in the form of childcare vouchers. The Childcare Voucher Scheme involves giving up some of your pay in exchange for the childcare vouchers and there are tax advantages if you receive vouchers instead of pay. However, if you accept a cut in pay this could reduce your salary to a sum below the lower earnings limit and affect your rights to certain benefits. Your State Pension, Maternity Allowance, Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay and tax credits could all be affected if your pay falls below the lower earnings limit.

For more information about the Childcare Voucher Scheme, go to www.direct.gov.uk or consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Sure Start

If you are in a Sure Start area, you may be able to get advice about available childcare from a Sure Start programme in your area. For information about other help with childcare, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

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Child Trust Fund

The Child Trust Fund (CTF) is a savings and investment account for children. The government used to make payments to children through this account and family and friends can also contribute. However, the government stopped opening any new accounts for children born after 2 January 2011.

If your child was born between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011, and you were getting Child Benefit, your child was eligible for a Child Trust Fund account .

If your child already has a Child Trust Fund account, they will have access to the account when they reach 18 and will be able to spend the money as they like.

Your family and friends can contribute to a Child Trust Fund account, up to an overall total of £3,720 a year. The year runs from the child's birthday. The maximum amount you can contribute is increasing to £3,840 per year from April 2014.

Once a child is 16, they can manage the Child Trust Fund Account themselves, but they cannot access any of the money until they are 18 unless they are terminally ill.

If a child with a Child Trust Fund account dies, the money in the account will pass to the person entitled to inherit the child's estate - usually the parent(s).

For more information on The Child Trust Fund, go to the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

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Other help with the costs of bringing up children

If you are on a low income, you may be able to get other help with the costs of bringing up your children. For example, your children may be entitled to free school meals or help with the costs of school uniform. If you are pregnant or you have young children, you may be able to get vouchers to help with the cost of milk, fruit or vegetables. In most cases, this help will depend on what benefits you are receiving.

For more information about other help for children if you are on a low income, see Help with health, education and legal costs.

If your income has changed because of having children and you'd like some unbiased money advice, try the Money Advice Service financial health check. The questions take just a few minutes to answer and at the end you'll have a better understanding of what shape your finances are in.

The health check also gives you a financial action plan and ideas on how to make the most of your money. For more information, go to www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk.

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