Child benefit

You can get Child Benefit for each of your children up to the age of 16. In some areas this will be paid as part of a single universal credit if you receive other benefits too.

The amount for an eldest or only child is 20.50, whereas you could be paid 13.55 for any additional children. If you or your partner earn more than 50,000, you may have to pay a tax charge. You can find out more on the Gov.uk website.

Child tax credit

Child Tax Credit is also available for any children under 16, you don't have to work to claim it and it won't affect your Child Benefit payments.

You can use the calculator on the Gov.uk website to work out how much you could get, if any - it will depend on your household's income.

If you give birth from April 2017, your ability to claim child tax credits will be capped to your first 2 children born from this date.

Childcare Tax Credits

If you're entitled to Childcare Tax Credits, they'll provide up to 122.50 per week for one child or 210 per week for two or more.

How much you get will depend on what you earn - you can check on the Gov.uk website.

Childcare vouchers

Your employer may offer a salary sacrifice scheme which will allow you to use part of your pay to purchase childcare vouchers without paying tax or National Insurance on that amount.

Our guide, How to Get Help with the Cost of Childcare, takes a closer look at how childcare vouchers can help working parents.

The scheme will be replaced in 2017 with a new tax-free childcare scheme.

Maternity Pay

When preparing for the arrival of a baby the last thing you want to think about is how you are going to afford basic living expenses. Maternity pay can really help with the cost by granting you funds for before and after the birth.

You'll be eligible to claim for maternity pay if you've been in the same job for at least 26 weeks, and if you claim by at least 15 weeks before your baby is due. You'll also have to be earning at least 90 a week before tax.

For the first six weeks of your pregnancy you can get 90% of your average earnings as maternity pay. After that point you'll get 138.18 per week for the next 33 weeks, with your employer paying this in the same way they'd pay your salary. Your employer then claims this back from the Inland Revenue, so you don't have to pay any of it back yourself even if you don't return to work after maternity leave.

To get your maternity pay simply ask your employer and they will make the necessary arrangements - remember though to give the correct notice of your maternity leave (at the latest, the end of the 15th week before your expected due date).

Shared parental leave

Parental leave can now be shared between both partners with the introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL).

Until now, partners were entitled to two weeks of standard paternity leave, and while additional paternity leave of 26 weeks was also available, only one in 50 used the additional leave.

With the introduction of SPL couples will now be able to share 52 weeks of leave between them when they have a baby or adopt.

Mothers can share their allowance with their partners and return to work more quickly, if they wish - before SPL, mothers had to wait until 20 weeks after the child was born before passing on some leave to her partner.

Fathers will still be able to take two weeks of paternity leave straight after the child is born that won't count towards your SPL entitlement. However, additional paternity leave has been replaced by SPL.

You can check the full eligibility criteria for both of you on the Gov.uk website.

The shared parental leave rules replaced paternity pay and leave for parents of children born since April 2015.

Sure Start Maternity Grant

The Sure Start Maternity Grant is a one-off payment for people on lower incomes that you don't have to pay back. You'll be given 500 for each baby, but you'll have to be in receipt of one of the following benefits to be eligible:

  • Income Support

  • Jobseeker's Allowance

  • Employment and Support Allowance

  • Pension Credit

  • Child Tax Credits that are at a higher rate than the family element

  • Working Tax Credit where a disability element is included in the award.

To get your Sure Start Maternity Grant you'll need to fill in this form. You'll be able to claim for the grant if you're expecting a baby within 11 weeks or if you've given birth within the last 3 months.

Other help

As well as help from the government, don't forget to see what help you can get from family and friends where you can, even if it's just by giving you an occasional break by looking after your child.

For more information on what benefits are available, use the benefits calculator on the Entitledto website.