This is one of two posts going live today on the topic of benefits etc.
So in slight contrast to my other post today, in this one I'm going to be giving some very basic advice on working benefits if you're having your first baby. It can be an incredibly daunting time and not just financially, there is a lot of help out there for working families amd so I'm just going to summarise the basics in strait-forward language. I hope that you find it helpful and please note this isn't a guide for how to milk the system, make lots of money or any such thing, it is simply a guide on what you may be entitled to if you are expecting your first baby and are new to benefits.
Maternity Allowance and Statutory Maternity Pay.
If you're expecting, no doubt you will already know about these but I'll just run through them super quick. If you're working you should be entitled to one or the other (you might even be lucky enough to work for a company that has its own maternity policy). Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid by our employer in the same frequency of your wages. For the first 6 weeks you will receive 90% of our average wage and for the following 33 you will receive approximately £136 (or 90% if lower). You will need to of been employed by your employer for 26 consecutive weeks by the qualifying period (week 15 of your pregnancy) which is about 11 weeks before conception.
Maternity Allowance is what you can claim if you are not eligible for SMP and to qualify you will need to of been employed or in certain circumstances self-employed, for 26 of the 66 weeks before your baby is due. It is paid at the same rate as SMP (£136 or 90% of your average income over the 13 weeks you provide as evidence) so long as you have earns more than £30 a week whilst earning. This is paid either fortnightly or four-weekly (your choice).
Obviously if you are claiming SMP or Maternity Allowance, your income is likely to drop, for some, significantly (for me it was over 50%). If you rent privately, you can apply to your local council for help with your rent. There's no shame in it, it's there for people who need it and I can't think of a better reason than keeping a roof over your head. Be warned, it is a long and lengthy form and process, but anything that eases the strain will be welcome, I am sure. If you are seen as qualifying for housing benefit, please note that it is not based upon the price of your rent, but the 'local housing allowance', a figure that shows the average price of renting a property for the size you need. If you are still expecting when you claim, you will more than likely be assessed against the local housing allowance for a one bedroom property, this is because it'll just be you and you're partner. When baby is born, obviously you will need to inform the,, your entitlement will most likely go up. Check out your local council's website for more information and you can also google your borough name along with 'local housing allowance' to find out what sort of figure you might be looking at. If you have a very low income, you may also be entitled to a council tax reduction (which has recently replaced Council Tax benefit), most housing benefit forms give you the option to apply for both, you may as well if you're struggling or think you might start to, it does no harm. Don't forget if you are a single expectant mother, you should be entitled to a council tax discount before baby is born. How often Housing Benefit is paid is highly dependant on your local council, it is often fort-nightly.
There are two main toes of tax credits; working and child. You can claim working tax credits before baby is born if you work over 30 hours, are over 25 and on a low income (around £13000 if you are single, £18000 for couples).
Once baby arrives you can then also claim child tax credits to help with costs and also childcare in certain circumstances. All the information is on the website and to make a claim, you will need to contact the tax credits office to ask for a form. Child tax credits are linked to child benefit and so you don't normally need to send your child's birth certificate off if you are also claiming child benefit.
The vast majority of us are entitled to this little bit of money which is paid four-weekly. It's about £20 a week for your first child (lower forconsecutive children) and normally paid four-weekly. You'll get a form in your free Bounty packs (assuming they haven't been frog-marched from your hospital...), if not you can print one from the HMRC website. You will need to of registered your baby's birth before you apply as you will need the birth certificate as evidence.
There are other things such as sure start maternity grant and milk tokens for people who are on very low incomes, it may be worth checking to see if you qualify for such things.
Even if you are only entitled to some of these things after baby is born, it's worth getting what forms that you can as early as possible and fill in what you can before baby arrives. Having a baby is a manic, busy time and you do not want to be worrying about money on top of all of that, you want to be enjoying your newborn! So fill in what you can in advance, finish it once baby arrives, pop it in the post and try to forget about it to enjoy your new little person!
Please note I'm not a financial expert, just a working mother. Please also be aware that the government is currently in the process of introducing 'Universal Credit' which will combine all of the above benefits into one payment, you may or may don't be in an area that has already introduced this.
Labels: Benefits, money, new baby, pregnancy