HAVING a baby is both exciting and expensive, but expectant parents can get up to £500 to help with their expenses.
The basic cost of raising a child until the age of 18 starts at roughly £74,000 so the grant may not seem like much but the last thing you want to do after you give birth is worry about money.
If you also add childcare costs to the calculation of raising a kid, the figure rises to £151,000, according to a recent report from Child Poverty Action Group.
Luckily, the Sure Start Maternity Grant offers soon-to-be-parents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland a one-off upfront sum of £500.
Residents living in Scotland can get £600 through the Pregnancy and Baby Payment – you can read all about this and how to apply here.
The grants could come in handy, especially as pregnant mums face an up to 12-week wait for backlogged maternity allowance payments.
The grants are paid to help cover some of the costs of having children, which could be things like needing a pram or baby clothes.
Because it’s a cash payment, you can choose how you need to spend the money.
You also don’t have to pay it back and the grants will not affect your other benefits or tax credits either.
Am I eligible?
You usually qualify for the Sure Start Maternity Grant if you’re pregnant with your first child or are expecting a multiple birth (such as twins) and have children already.
Either you or your partner must also be receiving any of the below benefits:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element
- Universal Credit
- In some cases also if you’re getting a Support for Mortgage Interest loan
Your income, or the amount you get of any of these payments or benefits, doesn’t matter but there are also exceptions to these rules.
For example, you could be eligible for the grant even if you already have children under the age of 16.
But the child that you’re caring for must be someone else’s (but not your partner’s) and the child was over 12 months old when the arrangement started.
You could also get the cash payment if you’re adopting a child or becoming a surrogate parent.
If that’s you, the baby must be less than 12 months old on the date you claim, you must be receiving one of the benefits above and one of the following must also apply:
- You’ve become responsible for the baby and you’re not the mum
- The baby has been placed with you for adoption
- You’ve got permission to adopt a baby from abroad
- You’ve got a parental order for a surrogate birth
- You’ve been appointed as guardian
- You’ve an adoption or a residence order
How much can I claim?
The amount you can claim depends on how many children you are expecting.
For your first child, you can get up to £500.
You’ll get the same amount if you’re expecting twins and you already have one child under 16, or £1,000 for triplets.
If you’ve already had twins and you’re having triplets then you may be able to claim £500.
You won’t be able to get the grant if you already have children in any other circumstance.
Help available for parents
BELOW are some of your other options if you're looking for financial support during or after your pregnancy.
- Free prescriptions and dental treatment: You’re entitled to free prescriptions and NHS dental treatments while you’re pregnant and for a year after the baby is born. To get free treatment, fill in the Maternity Exemption form (FW8), which you can get from your doctor or midwife
- Paid maternity leave: You’re entitled to a year’s maternity leave and pay from your employer for up to 39 weeks while you’re on leave, if you’re eligible. This is if you’ve been working for the same employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before your baby is due
- Maternity Allowance: This is paid out if you don’t qualify for statutory maternity pay from your employer or if you’re self-employed
- Lower council tax: If your child is below the age of 18 and you don’t live with another adult, you can apply for 25 per cent off your council tax
- Child Benefit: All parents can claim Child Benefit, which is a government subsidy of £20.70 a week for your first child and £13.70 a week for subsequent children
- Get food vouchers: The Healthy Start scheme supports parents with food vouchers. You qualify if you’re 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four and get income support or another benefit. Payment vouchers start from £3.10 a week
- Benefits: If you’re on a low income, you may be able to claim income support, jobseeker’s allowance, or housing benefit
- Help with childcare costs: If you have a three or four-year-old child, you can register for the government’s 30 hours free childcare scheme
- Other discounts: Apart from the support mentioned above, there are also water bill discounts, free school travel and lunches as well as uniform relief
How do I apply for the grant?
To apply for the grant, you’ll need to fill in the Sure Start Maternity Grant (SF100) claim form or if you live in Northern Ireland, you can download a claim form from nidirect.
The grant must be claimed within 11 weeks of the baby’s due date or within six months after the baby’s birth.
If you’re becoming responsible for a child, you must claim within six months of this happening.
A health professional, such as a doctor or midwife, must also sign your claim form.
Then post it to “Freepost DWP SSMG” – you don’t need a postcode or stamp – or take it to your local Jobcentre Plus.
If you need help with your claim, contact the Sure Start Maternity Grant helpline on 0800 169 0140 or contact Jobcentre Plus.
More on money
Working parents are struggling as nursery fees have risen by a whopping 52 per cent over the past 10 years – three times faster than wages.
Back to school essentials have also jumped 10 per cent in price as parents expect to shell out £190 kitting kids out.