Financial support for families
Find out what financial support and benefits may be available to families from pregnancy to school age.
As a family, you may be entitled to benefits or financial support, depending on your circumstances and the age of your child or children.
Get information on employment rights, how to claim benefits, what financial advice and assistance is available and who to turn to if you are struggling with debt and hardship.
Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs - paid monthly.
You may be able to get it if you’re on a low income, out of work or you cannot work.
Universal Credit replaces the following benefits:
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Working Tax Credit
If you currently get any of these benefits, you do not need to do anything unless:
- you have a change of circumstances you need to report
- the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contacts you about moving to Universal Credit
If you get tax credits, they will stop when you or your partner applies for Universal Credit.
You get Child Benefit if you’re responsible for bringing up a child who is:
- under 16
- under 20 if they stay in approved education or training
Only one person can get Child Benefit for a child.
It’s paid every 4 weeks and there’s no limit to how many children you can claim for.
By claiming Child Benefit:
- you can get National Insurance credits which count towards your State Pension
- your child will automatically get a National Insurance number when they’re 16 years old
If you choose not to get Child Benefit payments, you should still fill in and send off the claim form.
If you have a baby, you might be able to get more money if you’re already getting Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit.
The amount you can get depends on how many children you’ve got and whether you’re:
- making a new claim for Child Tax Credit
- already claiming Child Tax Credit
Child Tax Credit will not affect your Child Benefit.
You can only claim Child Tax Credit for children you’re responsible for.
Free school meals
Many families in Sandwell could get free school meals but don't claim for them.
Your child may be entitled to free school meals if:
your annual income is less than £16,190; and
you claim Child Tax Credit (*Not Including Working Tax Credit) only; and
your child is attending a Sandwell School (if your child(ren) doesn't attend a Sandwell School, you will need to apply to the Local Authority which your child(ren) school is in)
Your child may also qualify for free school meals if you receive any of the following benefits:
Employment and Support Allowance (income related)
Guaranteed Pension Credit (including Child Tax Credit)
Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
support from the National Asylum Support Service.
Help with travel costs and school uniforms in Sandwell.
Help during school hoildays for eligible families.
Maternity pay and leave
When you take time off to have a baby you might be eligible for:
- Statutory Maternity Leave
- Statutory Maternity Pay
- paid time off for antenatal care
- extra help from the government
You can check what maternity pay and leave you’re eligible for.
You can work out your maternity pay and leave online.
Your employment rights are protected while on Statutory Maternity Leave. This includes your right to:
- pay rises
- build up (accrue) holiday
- return to work
Maternity Allowance is usually paid to you if you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay.
You can claim Maternity Allowance as soon as you’ve been pregnant for 26 weeks. Payments can start 11 weeks before your baby is due.
Sure Start Maternity Grant
You could get a one-off payment of £500 to help towards the costs of having a child. This is known as a Sure Start Maternity Grant.
You usually qualify for the grant if both of the following apply:
- you’re expecting your first child, or you’re expecting a multiple birth (such as twins) and have children already
- you or your partner already get certain benefits
You must claim the grant within 11 weeks of the baby’s due date or within 6 months after the baby’s birth.
You do not have to pay the grant back and it will not affect your other benefits or tax credits.
Paternity pay and leave
When you take time off because your partner’s having a baby, adopting a child or having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement you might be eligible for:
- 1 or 2 weeks’ paid Paternity Leave
- Paternity Pay
- Shared Parental Leave and Pay
You may not get both leave and pay, and there are rules on how to claim and when your leave can start.
Your employment rights are protected while on paternity leave. This includes your right to:
- pay rises
- build up (accrue) holiday
- return to work
You can get time off to accompany your partner (or the surrogate mother) to 2 antenatal appointments.
If you’re adopting a child, you can get time off to attend 2 adoption appointments after you’ve been matched with a child.
Shared Parental Leave and Pay
You and your partner may be able to get Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) if you’re:
- having a baby
- using a surrogate to have a baby
- adopting a child
You can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between you.
You need to share the pay and leave in the first year after your child is born or placed with your family.
You can use SPL to take leave in blocks separated by periods of work, or take it all in one go. You can also choose to be off work together or to stagger the leave and pay.
To get SPL and ShPP, you and your partner need to:
meet the eligibility criteria - there’s different criteria for birth parents and criteria for adoptive parents or parents using a surrogate
give notice to your employers
Plan shared parental leave and pay
You can use this planning tool to find out:
- how and when you can take Shared Parental Leave alongside Maternity, Adoption and Paternity Leave
- how much Statutory Shared Parental Pay you’re entitled to while you take leave (your employer might offer more than the statutory amount)
- when you need to give notice to your employer
Adoption pay and leave
When you take time off to adopt a child or have a child through a surrogacy arrangement you might be eligible for:
- Statutory Adoption Leave
- Statutory Adoption Pay
There are rules on when and how to claim your paid leave and if you want to change your dates.
You may also be eligible to take Shared Parental Leave and Pay.
Support for disabled children
Sandwell council can provide help if you have a disabled child, including:
- short break services
- holiday play schemes
- care at home
- some aids and adaptations
- financial help, eg money towards travel costs for hospital visits
The council has a duty to provide these services under the Children Act 1989. Some are free of charge - the council might ask you to contribute towards others.
If you think your child may qualify, contact the social services team
A social worker will then talk to you about the needs of your family, including:
- social care
This is called a ‘needs assessment’ - the social worker will give you advice on what to do next.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children may help with the extra costs of looking after a child who:
- is under 16
- has difficulties walking or needs much more looking after than a child of the same age who does not have a disability
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children is a tax-free benefit made up of 2 components (parts). The child might qualify for one or both components
You might qualify for Carer’s Allowance if you spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a child who gets the middle or highest care rate of DLA.
Support for separated families
Child maintenance is an arrangement between you and the other parent of your child. It covers how your child’s living costs will be paid for when one of the parents no longer lives with them. It’s made when you’ve separated from the other parent (or if you’ve never been in a relationship).
Both parents are responsible for the costs of raising their children, even if they do not see them. Making agreements about access to your children happens separately.
Child maintenance can be either:
- a private arrangement between you and the other parent
- made through the Child Maintenance Service - a government scheme
You need to have child maintenance arrangements for children under 16 (or under 20 if they’re in approved education or training). If you make a private arrangement you can continue paying after then.
You can use the Child Maintenance Service to arrange child maintenance if you do not want to contact the other parent yourself. They will contact the other parent for you and you will not need to pay the application fee if you’re experiencing domestic abuse.
Sandwell Local Welfare Provision
Sandwell Council currently run a Local Welfare Provision Scheme (LWP). LWP is help for people who have a crisis and don't have the resources to deal with it or are about to leave care or be moved as part of a resettlement programme and need essential items.
Sandwell’s LWP scheme can provide help with the following:
Fuel – This will be a pay point voucher for pre pay meters only and gives emergency provision for three days
Travel – This will be a payment voucher for one to three days travel in the West Midlands area only
Furniture / White Goods – All furniture will be good second hand furniture except for white goods and mattresses.
The scheme is purely discretionary and people have no automatic right to an award.
To be able to get assistance through Sandwell’s LWP scheme, customers must:
Be aged 18 or over
Have been living in Sandwell immediately before requesting assistance
Be receiving one of the following benefits:
Income based Jobseeker's Allowance
Income related Employment and Support Allowance
Pension Credit (Guarantee Element only).
Universal Credit – Where you qualify for the full Allowance (i.e. There are no deductions for employment)
If you’re pregnant or have a child under 4, the Healthy Start scheme can help you buy basic foods like milk or fruit.
If you qualify for the scheme you’ll be sent vouchers you can use in over 30,000 shops in the UK.
You can also get coupons to swap for:
- pregnancy vitamins
- breastfeeding vitamins
- vitamins for children aged 6 months to 5 years old
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