Written by: Marcus Adams
Many working parents are simply too busy juggling kids and a job on top to realise that they may not be claiming everything they’re entitled to. Millions of benefits actually go unclaimed every year, because potential claimants are either unaware of the schemes that they’re eligible for, assume that they don’t qualify because they’re in work, or they assume that the paperwork will be too much of a nuisance to fill in. In fact, you’re far more likely to be entitled to benefits than you think – and claiming these days is nowhere near as difficult as you’d imagine, with lots of help if you just ask for it. Here’s a list of the main benefits that you may want to look into if you’re a parent:
This is often thought of as a benefit that you can only claim if you’re out of work, as people often claim it hand in hand with Job Seekers’ Allowance – but in fact you can claim it if you work sixteen hours a week or less and are bringing up kids on your own. You’ll need to put in a claim to see if you qualify as the precise eligibility requirements are quite complex, but if awarded income support in the 2013/14 tax year you could receive up to £56.25 a week.
Child Tax Credit
If you’re claiming income support you may qualify for Child Tax Credit. This lets you claim in respect of each child you’re responsible for up to the age of 16 (or age 20 if the child is in full-time education).
You’re given a basic amount per child (£545 in the 2013/14 tax year), with extras added on worth up to £2,720 for each child per year plus even more if you’re responsible for disabled children.
As with other benefits, the Gov.UK website has an online calculator to let you quickly work out if you qualify.
Most parents are eligible for Child Benefit and it’s paid tax-free, with children under 16 qualifying – or children up to age 20 if they’re in full-time education. Payments in respect of your eldest or only child are £20.30 a week until 2014, with payment for additional children coming in at £13.40 a week. Again, visit the Gov.UK website to check instantly to see if you’re eligible.
You may qualify for this if your income and savings make you eligible, and you’re not a homeowner. It’s designed to help those on a low income meet their rent payments, as some areas are more expensive to live in than others. As of April 2013 the total amount you will get will depend on the total level of other benefits you’re getting – and if you get the full amount of housing benefit it will only cover the actual rental you pay to live in your accommodation, and not anything like utilities that may be included in the rent.
Council Tax Reduction
Eligibility for Council Tax Reduction (formerly Council Tax Benefit) runs along similar lines to that of Housing Benefit: If you’re on a low income you can use this benefit to lower your council tax bill. Some areas have higher Council Tax rates than others so it’s only reasonable that you’re given more help if you’re in a high-rent area, and this scheme will make sure that you are.
There’s no need to fill in any paperwork with Council Tax Benefit: You can apply online, and as with any other type of benefit, you can always consult your nearest Citizen’s Advice Bureau if you’re unsure about anything.
Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA)
If you’re 18 or over and below pensionable age, and out of work then you’ll probably qualify for JSA. This is the most basic benefit for those out of work, and in the 2013/14 tax year you can get up to £111.45 a week whilst you’re attempting to find a job. You can claim in person or by phone, and you’ll have to attend an interview at Jobcentre Plus, and sign on every fortnight to claim.
There are two basic types of JSA: Contribution-based JSA applies if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions to qualify, otherwise you can claim income-based JSA instead. You’ll be told which to apply for when you make your claim, so don’t worry too much about distinguishing between the two schemes.
There’s one other avenue you may want to go down if you’re finding it difficult to make ends meet because the parent of a child you’re responsible for is estranged from you and is making no contribution to childcare costs: In this instance you can contact the Child Support Agency (CSA) who will tell you how to pursue the parent of your child and make sure that they pay you anything that they’re legally obliged to.
Another source of cash may also be available if you’re thinking of starting your own business. If you’re a budding entrepreneur then check out the New Enterprise Allowance: This can pay you up to £1,000 if you’re claiming JSA, live in a qualifying area and have a sufficiently good business idea.
So don’t despair if things are proving too hard: There’s plenty of financial support out there whether you’re working or not…