Support schemes for single parents – the financial help available to you

There are 1.7 million single parent families in the UK – and thousands of them are struggling. Thankfully, help is available in the form of discounts, grants and benefits

Two thirds of children in single parent families will be in poverty by 2021, a charity has warned, in what has been described as the knock on effect of low wages and zero hour contracts on Britain’s struggling households.

A report by charity Gingerbread , said that unsustainable work and poverty are two of the biggest issues facing the UK’s 1.7 million single parent families today.

It said that despite significant progress over the past century, such as the abolition of the workhouse in 1930 and rising employment, a third of children with a working single parent today are living on the breadline.

The charity’s study found lone parent families are twice as likely to fall into poverty – with decent salary jobs “few and far between” and well-paid flexible ones equally rare.

Gingerbread added that single parents are more likely than the average employee to be trapped in low paid, sustainable work – the number of them on zero-hours contracts has increased tenfold over the past ten years.

Chief executive Rosie Ferguson said: “Low-paid and insecure jobs, as well as the lack of affordable childcare , mean that some single parents struggle to put food on the table for their children.

“The government must work with job centres, employers and childcare providers to ensure that work genuinely provides a route out of poverty.”

Financial support to help support you

Being single with a dependant can be challenging – even at the best of times. Whatever your situation, here are a few ways to boost your income.

Money off your council tax bill

If your children are under the age of 18 and you don’t live with another adult, you can apply for 25% off your council tax.

To claim, you’ll have to apply through your local council .

You might also be able to get a council tax reduction (also called council tax support) depending on where you live, your income, your dependants, savings and any benefits you already claim.

If you’re on a low income and have more than one dependant, you may qualify for a 100% discount. Here’s how to apply for a Council Tax Reduction .

Child Benefit

All parents can claim Child Benefit. This is a state subsidy paid out if you’re responsible for a child.

The payment is £20.30 a week for your first child and £13.40 a week for subsequent children. This is paid out irrespective of savings and income.

Payments are tax-free as long as you’re earning below £50,000 a year. After this point it gets a little more complicated. You can still claim it, but you’ll have to repay some back in the form of income tax. You can read more on this, here .

To make a claim, you need to fill out a claim form (CH2) .

Claiming Child Benefit will also help you protect your State Pension. If you’re off work looking after your child and not paying National Insurance contributions, claiming Child Benefit will ensure you get credits towards your State Pension.

Healthy Start scheme

The Healthy Start scheme supports pregnant mums with food vouchers to cover their family. These can be spent at local retailers and supermarkets.

You qualify for Healthy Start if you’re 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four and get income support or another benefit.

Pregnant women and children over one and under four years old can get one £3.10 voucher per week. Children under one year old can get two £3.10 vouchers (£6.20) per week.

If you’re under 18 and pregnant, you automatically qualify for the scheme. Find out if you qualify on the NHS’s Healthy Start page .

Child maintenance

If you’re a single parent, you may be able to claim child maintenance from the other parent to support your child.

This covers things like shelter, food and clothes. Contrary to belief, contributing towards child maintenance is actually a legal responsibility.

In the UK, half a million families have an arrangement between themselves on how much one parent will fund the other. This is known as a family-based arrangement.

However, if you can’t agree, you could apply to the statutory child maintenance service , which can set up an arrangement for you. If you’re worried about how much you should be contributing or receiving, use this Gov.uk calculator to work it out .

Universal Credit and more benefits

If you’re a single parent or on a low income, you may be able to claim other benefits, such as income support, jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), or housing benefit – which can help with rent.

These are all means-tested and dependent on your employment status, your dependants, health concerns and more.

Income support, for instance, is paid to those who are out of work or working less than 16 hours a week, have a child under five, are pregnant and/or have limited or no savings.

If you are a single parent you should receive £73.10 a week. It’s paid fortnightly.

The Gov.uk website has a handy guide to benefits here , including how to apply for them.

The Government is also pushing ahead with its rollout of Universal Credit this year – which means you may have to apply for this instead. This is a six in one benefit that encompasses all of the above. It’s also means-tested but paid monthly.

Charity Gingerbread has a very handy guide on benefits for single parents that you can read here .

Sure Start maternity grant

The Sure Start maternity grant is a one-off payment of £500 that you don’t have to pay back. It can prove invaluable for single parents following the arrival of a newborn.

If you qualify, it goes straight into your bank or building society account. It can then be spent on anything from a cot to a car seat or even nappies.

To claim, you must be pregnant/about to adopt (or have given birth in the past 3 months) with the baby due within 11 weeks. You must also be claiming one of the means-tested benefits above.

If you think you qualify for the Sure Start maternity grant, you’ll need to fill out a SF100 application form .

Help with childcare

If you’ve a three or four year old child, you can register for the government’s 30 hours free childcare scheme .

The idea of this initiative is to support parents that want to get back into employment – but simply cannot afford to because of childcare.

You must be earning at least £120 a week to qualify – that’s the equivalent of 16 hours on the National Minimum or Living Wage .

If you want to apply, you can do so through the government’s Childcare Choices website .

Once you’ve applied, your application will be reviewed by HMRC. Those who qualify will then be sent a free hours code which they can then pass on to their child’s nursery.

There is also free education and childcare available for 2-year-olds. Find out more here

What else can I get discounts on?

  • Prescriptions: If you get income support or qualify for a part of Universal Credit, you may be able to get free prescriptions, dental treatment, sight tests and more to help with healthcare. If you’re pregnant, you will be able to receive free dental care and free prescriptions until your baby is a year old. See more advice on cheap prescriptions here .
  • Winter bills: If you qualify for certain welfare benefits and the average temperature is 0°C or below for seven days in a row in your area, you’ll be able to claim extra money to pay off your winter energy bill .
  • School uniforms: Under the Education Act, local authorities have the power to provide up to £150 in financial help to parents to assist them with buying school clothing for their children – more info here .
  • Warm home discount scheme: This a support scheme aimed at households who may struggle to pay their energy bills. It’s a one-off £140 discount on your energy bill over winter – but instead of being paid directly to you, it’s automatically deducted from your bill over the winter months (between September and March). If you’re claiming any benefits, you can claim it too .
  • Watersure scheme: If you claim benefits, have a medical condition or have three or more children living in your household, you may qualify for the Watersure scheme . To qualify, you’ll also need to be on a water meter or be waiting to have one installed. The scheme caps your water bill and ensures you don’t pay any more than the average metered bill for your local area.
  • School travel: If you get the maximum Working Tax Credit, you can also get free school transport for your child .

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