For something so small they don't half cost a lot of money. Fear not, help is at hand. Child Benefit is worth at least £80 a month; more if you have more than one child.
What is it?
Child Benefit offers extra financial help for parents and it's worth £20 a week for your eldest child. It isn't taxed and your salary does not affect it, but it might have an effect on other benefits. For example, it doesn't affect how much you get in tax credits, but it could affect mean-tested benefits, such as income support.
It's normally paid to the parent the child lives with, but that's not always the case. However, only one parent can claim it. Claiming Child Benefit also protects your entitlement to the state pension. For each full tax year that you receive Child Benefit for a child under the age of 16, you reduce the number of years you have to pay national insurance contributions to qualify for the basic state pension.
From April 2010, the rules change and child benefit also gives you credits towards the state second pension if you have a child under the age of 12.
How much will I get?
- £20.30 a week for the eldest or only child
- £13.40 for every additional child
Who is eligible?
Parents of children who are:
- Under 16
- Under 20 and in full-time education, or on certain approved training courses
- 16 or 17 and have recently left education or training, However, you must be registered for work or training with one of a number of organisations.
You cannot usually claim Child Benefit for a child who is in local authority care (although you may receive it for the first eight weeks) or in prison. For more advice, contact your Child Benefit office, the Child Benefit helpline on 0845 302 1444 or fill in a form online.
How do I claim?
How will I be paid?
Payment is normally made every four weeks into a bank, building society, Post Office Card or National Savings account through Direct Payment. In some situations you can get it paid weekly, for example if you're a single parent, or you or your partner/civil partner are getting income support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
If you'd like help claiming backdated Child Benefit, you can speak to someone at a Citizens Advice Bureau.
Child Benefit for 16 to 18 year olds
If you're a sixth form student the Government offers a means-tested Education Maintenance Allowance. This is additional to, and does not interfere with, Child Benefit payments. Both continue to be paid until you leave college or finish your course.
Changes to Child Benefit
Child Benefit used to be available to all parents, but this is changing.
The government has announced plans to reduce Child Benefit for people earning more than £50,000 a year, at a rate of 1% for ever £100 earned over that amount. If one parent earns more than £60,000, the family won't receive any child benefit. This has caused a touch of controversy because the benefit will be cut according to independent salaries rather than a joint salary.
So a single parent earning over £60k won't receive any Child Benefit, but a family where each parent earns just under that will.
These changes aren't planned to come into effect until 2013.
Remember to tell your benefits advisor if your circumstances change - for example if you get a pay rise, new job or get married. If you don't you could face a £50 fine as well as having to pay back any extra benefit. See GOV.UK for more information.
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