Your family finances

Financial support and benefits for families

7 min read

We run through everything you need to know about child benefit, child tax credit, Healthy Start vouchers, and other government schemes which help new and expectant parents.

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Food, nappies, clothes, medication… providing for a family can really add up. So whether you’re an expectant parent or you’re already looking after a baby, make sure that you’re receiving all the financial support you’re entitled to.

Free prescriptions and NHS dental care

What is it?

In England, you get free prescriptions while you’re pregnant and for a year after your baby is born. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, prescriptions are free for everyone.

When it comes to free NHS dental care, it’s the same across the UK – you get it free while you’re pregnant and during your baby’s first year.

How do I claim it?

You’ll need a maternity exemption application form (FW8). You can ask for it at any antenatal appointment and your midwife or doctor will sign the form and send it for you.

You’ll then receive a certificate by post, and you’ll need to bring it to the pharmacy to pick up your prescription for free. When making a dentist appointment, let them know you’re eligible for free care.

Healthy Start vouchers

What is it?

If you’re pregnant or have a child under four years old, you can receive Healthy Start vouchers to spend on milk, infant formula and fresh or frozen fruit and veg.

Am I eligible?

You need to either be pregnant (at least 10 weeks) or have a child under the age of four. You must also be receiving at least one of the following:

  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Child tax credit (but only if your family’s annual income is £16,190 or less)
  • Universal credit (but only if your family earns £408/month or less from employment)
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Working tax credit (but only if your family is receiving the four-week ‘run-on’ payment).

If you’re under 18 and pregnant, you’ll be eligible for vouchers even if you don’t receive any other benefits.

How much is it?

In your child’s first year, you’ll get two vouchers worth £3.10 a week.

During pregnancy and when your child is aged between one and four, you’ll receive one voucher worth £3.10 a week.

You can also get coupons to swap for pregnancy vitamins, breastfeeding vitamins, or vitamins for children aged from six months up to five years old.

How do I claim it?

Fill in the online form and print it out. You’ll then need to ask your midwife, health visitor or a registered doctor or nurse to sign the form, before sending it off.

Sure Start maternity grant

What is it?

The Sure Start maternity grant is a one-off government payment of £500 to help with the costs of having a child.

Am I eligible?

Usually, you’re eligible if there are no other children in your family and you or your partner receive one of the following benefits:

  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Pension credit
  • Child tax credit
  • Working tax credit that includes a disability or severe disability element
  • Universal credit.

If you already have children under 16, you may still be able to get the grant if you’re expecting a multiple birth (for example, twins), or if the other child you’re caring for is someone else’s (but not your partner’s) and the child was over one year old when the arrangement started.

If you live in Scotland, you instead of the Sure Start maternity grant you can apply for a Pregnancy and Baby Payment. With this, you’ll be paid £600 for your first child if you’re eligible – and then £300 for any other children.

How much is it?

Sure Start is a one-off payment of £500. You don’t have to pay it back.

How do I claim it?

Fill in the Sure Start Maternity Grant claim form and post it to: Freepost DWP SSMG. You don’t need a postcode or stamp.

You can claim from 11 weeks before the week that your baby is due, and the latest you can claim is six months after your baby was born.

Child benefit

What is it?

Child benefit is a monthly payment from the government to anyone who is responsible for a child under 16, or under 20 and in an approved form of education or training.

Am I eligible?

So long as you’re responsible for a child in the age bracket, you’re eligible. Child benefit isn’t means-tested, so the payments you receive are based on the number of children you’re responsible for rather than how much you earn.

However, if either you or your partner earns more than £50,000 a year, you’ll pay an additional tax charge of 1% of the child benefit you receive for every £100 of income between £50,000 and £60,000.

This means that if either you or your partner earns more than £60,000, with tax you’ll pay back your entire child benefit. In this case, it’s still worth signing up but opting out of receiving the payments. This is because child benefit gives you national insurance credits, which can build up your entitlement to the state pension.

How much is it?

You receive £20.70 a week for your first child, and then £13.70 a week for each additional child.


How do I claim it?

You’ll need to fill in the child benefit claim form CH2 and send it to the child benefit office, along with your child’s original birth or adoption certificate.

It can take up to 12 weeks to process a claim, and you can start claiming as soon as your child is born or comes to live with you.

This full child benefit guide offers more detail on how much you can expect to receive over a year, how to make a claim, how to increase child benefit payments, and more.

Child tax credit

What is it?

Child tax credit is a government-paid benefit that can be used to top up your income if you’re looking after a child. This is different from child benefit, and you can claim both at the same time.

It has been replaced by universal credit in some parts of the UK – but not all.

Am I eligible?

You don’t have to be working to claim child tax credit, and neither do you have to be the child’s parent – but you must be considered as their main carer.

If your household income is more than a certain amount, you may not qualify.

How much is it?

The amount of child tax credit you get is based on a few elements: your income, the number of children you have, and whether any of your children are disabled.

The income threshold for receiving the maximum working tax credit is £16,105 per annum. For every £1 you earn over this in a year, the amount of tax credit you’ll be paid decreases by 41p.

If you have two children, the amount of child tax credit you’re eligible for can increase.

  • Child tax credit explained: find out exactly how much you can expect to receive and what restrictions and exceptions there are to claiming.

How do I claim it?

You’ll need to order a claim form for tax credits. This can take two weeks to arrive, and up to five weeks for a claim to be processed. For more details, visit the Gov.uk website.

Child tax credit and universal credit

Child tax credit has been replaced by universal credit in some parts of the UK – but not all. Visit our guide to universal credit to see whether it’s been rolled out to your area and to find out more.

Help with childcare costs

There are various different ways to get help with childcare costs. Depending on your circumstances you may be eligible for: 

  • Tax-free childcare – receive up to £2,000 a year towards childcare costs, for each of your children.
  • Working tax credit – the childcare element is designed to help parents on low incomes pay for childcare. You can receive up to a maximum of £175/week for one child, or £300/week for two or more children.
  • Universal credit – if you’re already claiming and you’re in work, you could get 85% of childcare costs covered, up to a maximum of £646 per month for one child, or £1,108 for two or more children.
  • Free childcare – for two-year-olds, you can get to up to 15 hours a week for 38 weeks a year, if you’re on low income or in receipt of certain benefits. For three and four-year-olds, everyone gets 15 hours a week free for 38 weeks a year, and you could get an additional 15 hours per week if you (and your partner, if you have one) are in work or on maternity leave and earning at least £125.28 per week.

Find out more about the pros and cons of different options, and what you’d be eligible for, with the Which? Money guide to saving on childcare.

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