Help for parents and expecting parents
Cost of Living Guide
As a parent or expecting parent, you may be entitled to certain grants, schemes and programmes as you raise your children.
The Adviser Discretion Fund (ADF) can provide a grant of up to £1,500 within a 12-month period to remove obstacles to work. This can be used to pay for upfront childcare costs.
As the ADF is a grant, rather than a loan, any amount paid does not have to be repaid.
The ADF is accessible to anyone in receipt of a qualifying benefit, including JSA, ESA, Income Support, Universal Credit, Pension Credit, Maternity Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Credit, Working Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.
The ADF is only available through a Work Coach in your local Jobs and Benefits Office. To find out if you are eligible, contact your local Jobs and Benefits Office.
For more information on the Adviser Discretion Fund, visit:
If you are a working or self-employed parent, you might be eligible for tax-free childcare.
Tax-free childcare allows eligible families to claim 20% of their childcare costs, up to a maximum of £2,000 per child per year (£4,000 for a child with a disability), from the Government.
To be eligible, you and your partner must be working at least 16 hours per week at minimum wage or above. You will not be eligible, however, if you or your partner earn more than £100,000 per year.
You cannot use the tax-free childcare scheme at the same time as Universal Credit, tax credits or the childcare voucher scheme (which is now closed to new applications).
If you are already using the childcare voucher scheme, seek advice before switching to tax-free childcare. Once you make a claim for tax-free childcare, you can’t go back to the voucher scheme.
Contact Employers for Childcare’s family benefits advice line on 0800 028 3008 or visit the website below for a better off calculation if you are thinking of claiming tax-free childcare:
For more information on tax-free childcare and how to apply, visit:
If you are pregnant or about to become responsible for a baby, you might be eligible for a Sure Start maternity grant.
A Sure Start Maternity Grant is a one-off, non-repayable, tax-free payment to help towards maternity expenses and baby items.
To be eligible, you must be receiving a qualifying benefit.
The qualifying benefits are Income Support, income-based JSA, income-related ESA, Pension Credit, Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element. You might also be eligible if you receive a Support for Mortgage Interest loan.
You must make a claim within six months of the baby being born or the date that you became responsible for the baby. If pregnant, you can claim from 11 weeks before the baby is due.
In most cases, you will only be eligible for a Sure Start maternity grant if you have no other children in your family. However, there are limited circumstances when you can receive a grant even if you have another child. This may be because you are expecting more than one baby, or you are a refugee and your other child was born before you came to the UK.
If you are successful with your application and you do not have any other children in your family, you will receive a Sure Start maternity grant of £500.
For further information on Sure Start maternity grants and how to apply, visit:
The Healthy Start Scheme provides eligible families with a pre-paid card, which they can use to buy milk, formula and healthy food. The card can also be used to purchase Healthy Start vitamins.
To be eligible, you must be 10 weeks pregnant or have at least one child under the age of four.
You must also be receiving a qualifying benefit. The qualifying benefits are Child Tax Credit (as long as your family’s income is £16,190 or less), Income Support, income-based JSA, Pension Credit (which includes the child addition) and Universal Credit (as long as your net household income is £408 per month or less from employment).
You may also be eligible if you are under 18 and pregnant or if you are claiming income-related ESA and over 10 weeks pregnant.
For more information on the Healthy Start Scheme, visit:
You might be eligible for free school meals, free transport to and from school and/or a grant to help buy school uniforms.
You could be eligible for free school meals and a uniform grant if your child is in full-time education, and you receive a qualifying benefit.
The qualifying benefits are Income Support, income-based JSA, income-related ESA, Guarantee Pension Credit, Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit (with an annual taxable income of £16,190 or less) and Universal Credit (with net household earnings not exceeding £14,000 per year).
You might also be eligible if you are an Asylum Seeker who is supported by the Home Office Asylum Support Assessment Team (ASAT) or if your child has a statement of special educational needs and requires a special diet.
You can apply for financial help with the cost of school on the Education Authority website:
Some local councils offer Uniform Exchange schemes like this one:
Contact your local council to find out what is offered in your area:
Article 18 of the Children’s (NI) Order 1995 imposes an obligation on Health and Social Care Trusts to safeguard and promote the welfare of children by providing a range of social services depending on need.
This duty extends to the provision of financial assistance, including cash, to families with children.
A family might have to rely on Article 18 if their immigration status renders them ineligible for means-tested benefits.
For further information on sources of financial help for migrant families, see:
There are a number of baby banks operating in Northern Ireland, which can help with clothing and equipment for babies and young children.
Visit the following for more information: