Congratulations! Your new baby has arrived! After the initial excitement and exhaustion, you’re probably settling into a routine with your new baby, and have some time to find out what benefits you may be entitled to, now you are a mother. Read on for further information…

Sure Start Maternity Grant
If you are on a low income and receiving certain benefits such as Income Support, Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, you may be entitled to a Sure Start Maternity Grant.

This is a one-off payment of £500 that is made to help you meet the cost of having a new baby. You do not have to pay it back. If you already have children under 16, you may not get a grant unless you are expecting a multiple birth (such as twins or triplets) and you claim from August 13 2012, and the babies are expected or born on or after October 29 2012.

If you wish to make a claim, you must do so within 11 weeks of expecting the baby or within 3 months of the birth. Contact your local Jobcentre Plus and ask for claim form SF100 (Sure Start) or you can download it.

Child Benefit
You can get Child Benefit if you are responsible for a child under 16, or up until their 20th birthday if in full-time education to A-level or equivalent, or attending an approved unpaid course of training.

Until 2014, the allowance for your eldest child is £20.30 and £13.40 each for subsequent children.

You should claim Child Benefit as soon as your child is born. Your claim can only be backdated for 3 months so you should claim it as soon as possible. To make a claim, fill in a claim form and send it to the Child Benefit Office with your child’s original birth certificate.

Remember to report any changes to your family life or to your child’s life to the Child Benefit Office.

The High Income Child Benefit Charge
From January 7 2013, if you or your partner earns more than £50,000 per year, you will start to pay a new income tax charge.

It is the income of each person that counts, not your combined income. If you both earn £45,000 each you will not be affected by the changes. If one of you earns £51,000 and the other does not earn anything, you will have to pay extra tax. If one of you earns £51,000 and the other earns £55,000, the person with the higher income will have to pay the extra tax.

You will continue to receive a smaller amount of Child Benefit, depending on your income, but once your income is over £60,000 a year you will pay so much in tax, it will effectively cancel out the amount of Child Benefit you are getting.

Child Tax Credits
If you are responsible for a child under 16 or up until their 20th birthday if in full-time education to A-level or equivalent or attending an approved unpaid training course, you may be entitled to Child Tax Credit. You can claim whether or not you work. It is paid in addition to Child Benefit.

The amount of Child Tax Credit you get will depend on your household income and your circumstances. As a rough guide only, you may get Child Tax Credit if you have one child and a household income up to about £26,000 or two children and a household income of up to about £32,200.

Child Tax Credit is made up of different elements, including a family element which is paid to any family responsible for one or more children, and a child element for each child or young person in the family. You are entitled to an extra amount if a child is disabled.

If you would like to claim Child Tax Credit and it is the first time you have claimed, contact the Tax Credits Helpline on 0345 300 3900 and ask for a claim form. If you are already claiming Working Tax Credit, you do not have to complete a claim form, just call the helpline and update your claim.

Sue Phillips works at the Citizens Advice Bureau in Lincoln.

Fantastic news — you’ve just found out you’re expecting a baby! You’re probably feeling very excited about the prospect of your new arrival, but at the same time concerned about the likely drop in your family income.

Whether or not you are currently employed, read on for information about what financial benefits you might be entitled to before your baby is born.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

If you have been working for the same employer for at least 26 weeks up to and into the 15th week before the week the baby is due, and you earn on average at least £107 per week (for 2012-13), you may qualify for SMP.

If you wish to claim SMP you must give your employer 28 days’ notice that you want to stop working to have a baby, and the day you wish your SMP to start. If you later change your mind about the start date, you must give your employer 28 days’ notice of the new date otherwise they can refuse to pay you.

Statutory Maternity Pay can be paid for up to 39 weeks. For the first 6 weeks your employer must pay you SMP at the rate of 90% of your average weekly earnings. For the next 33 weeks, your employer must pay you 90% of your average weekly earnings or £135.45 (from 1 April 2012) whichever is the lower.

You will need to prove to your employer that you are expecting a baby, by providing evidence such as a letter from your GP or your MAT B1 maternity certificate, which your own doctor or midwife will give to you after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Maternity Allowance (MA)

If you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay, you may be eligible for Maternity Allowance if the following apply to you:

  • You have been employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the week your baby is due. It does not matter if the weeks are split up or with different employers.
  • You have been earning at least £30 per week over any 13 week period from employed or self-employed work.
  • You can get 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax or £135.45 (whichever is the lower).
  • Maternity Allowance is paid for up to 39 weeks and can start 11 weeks before your baby is due.

You can claim Maternity Allowance when you reach the 27th week of pregnancy by completing an MA1 claim form. You can obtain a claim form from the Jobcentre Plus or by downloading an MA claim pack.

Other options
If you are not entitled to either of the above, you may be able to claim Income Support once you are 29 weeks pregnant and for up to 15 weeks after your expected date. If you are capable of work, you could claim Job Seekers’ Allowance. The rules of entitlement are complicated, so you may wish to seek advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Healthy Start

If you are 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, and you or your family get a means-tested benefit such as Income Support, Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment & Support Allowance or Child Tax Credit, you will qualify for Healthy Start vouchers to help you to buy foods such as milk, fruit and vegetables. You will also get vitamin coupons to swap for free Healthy Start vitamins. If you are under 18 and pregnant you also qualify, even if you don’t get any of the above benefits.

Sue Phillips works at the Citizens Advice Bureau in Lincoln.

After months of saving, you finally buy your new bed from a local retailer on the High Street and are promised delivery the next day. Five days later the bed still hasn’t arrived, your telephone calls to the shop go straight to answer-phone and then you find out the business has actually gone bust!

Credit cards and protection under the law

Paying for your purchases, either goods or services, with a credit card may give you extra protection if there is a problem.

If a purchase costs between £100 and £30,000, including VAT and you pay with your credit card, Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act says that the credit card company and retailer may be jointly responsible for compensating you if something goes wrong. This is known as equal liability.

Even if you do not pay the whole cost of the purchase by credit card, for example you pay the deposit by cash or cheque and the balance by credit card, or vice versa you are still covered under equal liability rules.

Exceptions

You are not covered if you pay for goods or services with credit card cheques or by company credit card.

If your purchase costs less than £100, it is a good idea to check whether or not your credit card company offers a Chargeback scheme.

What to do if you have a problem with your purchase

Try to sort it out with the trader first. If you do not make any progress, inform your credit card company of the issue as soon as possible.

Ask them how to make a claim under equal liability rules, or if the amount is for less than £100, for details of the Chargeback scheme.

Why the credit card company may try to deny liability

A second cardholder made the purchase

You may have an additional card on your account that is used by a second card holder. The credit card company may argue that purchases made by the second card holder are not protected by equal liability, stating that it applies only to the person who signed the original agreement.

However, if the second card holder makes a purchase for the main card holder, such as a weekend break in a hotel, a claim might be possible because it could be argued the second card holder is acting as your agent.

The main card holder would have to make the claim.

You used Paypal

If you buy goods or services via an electronic money company such as Paypal, you may not be covered for equal liability by your credit card provider as there is no longer a direct relationship between the trader and the credit card company.

You may be able to make a claim using the company’s own protection scheme.

You bought the goods abroad

You are covered by equal liability if you:

  • Use a credit card to buy something while you are abroad
  • Order goods from a foreign trader while you are abroad, for delivery to a UK address
  • Discuss a purchase with a foreign trader in the UK but the contract is not completed in the UK.
  • You claim an amount less than £100

If for example you buy an air ticket that costs less than £100 but is part of a package holiday that costs more, you may be covered by equal liability.

If you need more help try the Consumer Credit Association. You can also contact the Citizens Advice Service Consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06 if you would like information or advice about any consumer issue. The lines are open Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm.

Sue Phillips works at the Citizens Advice Bureau in Lincoln.

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