Help from benefits

Benefits, allowances and universal credit are there to help if you are on a low income or caring for very young or disabled children. The amount you are entitled to is different for everyone and depends on where you live, how much you earn, how many children and the savings you have. Claiming what you are entitled to can make a difference to your family budget and circumstances, but it can be tough to keep up with changes.

For example, if you are currently claiming housing benefit, tax credits, income support or job seeker’s allowance, you may be affected by the move to universal credit. If you are earning, you can still get universal credit, but the amount for each family will be different to fit your situation.

Help with childcare costs

Even if you don’t have a job, if your child is between 2 and school age, you may be eligible for childcare funding to help you go back to work, study, train or take a few hours for yourself each week. All 3- and 4-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours of childcare per week. Here is an online calculator for you to check what help you could get with childcare costs. 

Gingerbread has a handy guide to childcare and universal credit depending on the age of your child.

Local discretionary payments

Your local authority may have their own schemes for help with council tax and other discretionary payments too, so it’s worth checking with your council if you are claiming all you are entitled to.

Childminders and universal credit

If you are a childminder and claiming housing benefit and you live in an area where universal credit isn’t compulsory yet, it might be worth staying on your existing benefits (called legacy benefits) as two thirds of your income is disregarded and expenses aren’t counted. Read more at https://www.entitledto.co.uk/help/work-as-childminder.

There is no disregard under universal credit. The rules for childminders are the same as for all self-employed people. It is still worth putting in a claim as even if you are earning below the ‘minimum income floor’ as you might be entitled to some money depending on your personal situation or if it is your first year of trading.

Top tips

Do a family budget so you know exactly how much money is coming in and going out of your household. If you are a childminder, make a separate one for your business income and expenses (ideally, keep a separate bank account for this). You can use our childminding costs calculator, or Citizens' Advice has an online budgeting tool to help.

Use an online benefits calculator to get an idea of whether you may be entitled to some help from benefits, allowances or universal credit. Here are some links to benefits calculators: Turn2us, Policy in Practice, or entitledto.

Get advice in person or on the phone from your local authority benefits advisors, work coaches or Citizens Advice to make sure you are claiming all you are entitled to.

Review regularly to keep up to date with changes in your family circumstances, changes in working patterns or hours, or money you’re paying out on childcare.

Handy links

Gov.uk has everything you need to know about benefits for families all in one place.

Citizens Advice has lots of information about the different benefits you may be entitled to and you can make an appointment to talk to someone at your local Citizens' Advice too.

Gingerbread, the single parent charity, has plenty of information about benefits and universal credit.