Financial support for families

family financial support

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

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. 

Apply for Universal Credit

Child Benefit

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.

Apply for child benefit

Tax Credits

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.

If you cannot make a new claim for tax credits, you might be able to apply for Universal Credit or Pension 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.

Apply for child tax credit

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:

Income Support

Universal Credit  

Employment and Support Allowance (income related)

Guaranteed Pension Credit (including Child Tax Credit)

Income-based Jobseekers Allowance

support from the National Asylum Support Service.

Apply for free school meals

Education Benefits

Help with travel costs and school uniforms in Sandwell.

Holiday Activities and Food Programme

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.

The amount you can get depends on your eligibility.

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.

Maternity Leave and Pay

Maternity and Paternity Leave Checker

Maternity Allowance

Employee Rights

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.

Sure Start Maternity Grant

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.

Paternity Leave and Pay

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

Shared parental leave and pay

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

Plan shared parental leave

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.

Adoption pay and leave

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:

  • health
  • social care
  • education

This is called a ‘needs assessment’ - the social worker will give you advice on what to do next.

Sandwell Local Offer

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

They will need to meet all the eligibility requirements.

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.

You may also be able to get help with equipment and adaptations

Disability Living Allowance Children

Carers Allowance

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.

Child Maintenance Service

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 Support 

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)


Local Welfare Provision  

Other support

Healthy Start 

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


a national charity providing free information and financial advice for anyone facing debt and financial hardship.

Sandwell Welfare Rights Team

free independent and impartial advice and support on all welfare benefits.

National Debt Line

free independent debt and financial advice over the phone and online.

Citizens Advice

free impartial debt, benefits and employment advice.


free impartial money and debt advice.

Debt Advice Foundation

UK charity providing free advice on debt.

Money Saving Expert

money saving and consumer advice.

Step Change

a charity giving practical money advice tips on how to keep on top of your debt by reducing your spending and making the most of your money.


advice for employers and employees

Page last reviewed: 26/09/2023


Get in touch with us

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