Havering Welfare Benefits Adviser Lorraine Moss today writes in the Havering Daily:
Although it is lovely to find out that you are expecting a baby, for many people it can be a worrying time financially. In this article, I want to discuss the different help that is available.
Statutory Maternity Pay
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for 39 weeks. You get 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks. You then receive £151.97 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. SMP is paid the same way as your wages and tax and National Insurance are deducted.
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)
To qualify for SMP you must:● earn on average at least £120 a week● give the correct notice● give proof you’re pregnant● have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks continuing into the ‘qualifying week’ – the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth
If you usually earn an average of £120 or more a week, and you only earned less in some weeks because you were paid but not working (‘on furlough’) under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, you may still be eligible.
You cannot get SMP if you go into police custody during your maternity pay period. It will not restart when you’re discharged.
I took voluntary redundancy in 1996 and when I fell pregnant with my first son, I was not eligible for SMP. However, I was pleased to discover that I was in fact entitled to Maternity Allowance. This was because of my National Insurance contributions and it was such a great help for me.
Maternity Allowance for 39 weeks
You might get Maternity Allowance for 39 weeks if one of the following applies:● you’re employed, but cannot get Statutory Maternity Pay● you’re self-employed● you’ve recently stopped working
In the 66 weeks before your baby’s due, you must also have been:● employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks● earning (or classed as earning) £30 a week or more in at least 13 weeks – the weeks do not have to be together
You may still qualify if you’ve recently stopped working. It does not matter if you had different jobs or periods of unemployment.
If you usually earn £30 or more a week and only earned less in some weeks because you were paid but not working (‘on furlough’) under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, you may still be eligible. You must give details in your claim form.
If you’re self-employed
To get the full amount of Maternity Allowance, you must have paid Class 2 National Insurance for at least 13 of the 66 weeks before your baby’s due.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will check if you’ve paid enough when you make your claim. They’ll write to you if you have not.
If you have not paid enough Class 2 National Insurance to get the full rate (£151.97 a week), you’ll get £27 a week for 39 weeks. You still need to meet all the other eligibility criteria to get this amount.
You may be able to get the full rate by making early National Insurance payments. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will send you a letter to tell you how.
You’ll need to pay using the reference number in the letter to get the full rate, even if you’ve recently made a payment through Self Assessment.
Maternity Allowance for 14 weeks
You might get Maternity Allowance for 14 weeks if for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before your baby is due:● you’re married or in a civil partnership● you’re not employed or self-employed● you take part in the business of your self-employed spouse or civil partner● the work you do is for the business and unpaid● your spouse or civil partner is registered as self-employed with HMRC and should pay Class 2 National Insurance● your spouse or civil partner is working as self-employed person● you’re not eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay or the higher amount of Maternity Allowance (for the same pregnancy)
Source Maternity Allowance: Eligibility – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) There is also a link to an online calculator that you can use to check to see if you are eligible.
You can also claim Universal Credit whilst receiving SMP or Maternity Allowance. SMP is treated as income so for every pound that you receive 63 pence will be deducted. With Maternity Allowance, the total amount that you receive will be deducted in full. Once the baby is born, you can apply for the Child Element of Universal Credit which is £237.08 per calendar month. There is a two-child limit on Universal Credit for all children born after April 2017.
Once your baby has been born and you have registered their birth, you can apply for Child benefit. Please see Claim Child Benefit – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). The current weekly rate is £21.15 per week for your eldest or only child and £14.00 per week for additional children.
Healthy Start Vouchers
If your pregnant or have a child under 4, the Healthy Start Scheme can help you buy things like food and milk.
What you’ll get
If you qualify, you’ll get vouchers worth £4.25 each to spend on:● milk● fresh fruit and vegetables● plain frozen fruit and vegetables● infant formula
You get 1 voucher a week if:● you’re pregnant● you have a child aged between 1 and 4
You get 2 vouchers a week if you have a child under 1.
You can also get free vitamin supplements.
You will qualify for the Healthy Start scheme if either:● you’re at least 10 weeks pregnant● you have at least 1 child under 4 years old
In addition, you must be receiving any of the following:● Child Tax Credit (but only if your family’s annual income is £16,190 or less)● income-related Employment and Support Allowance● Income Support● income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance● Pension Credit● Universal Credit (but only if your family earns £408 or less per month from employment)● Working Tax Credit (but only if your family is receiving the 4 week ‘run-on’ payment)
You’ll also be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme if you’re pregnant and under 18, even if you do not receive any benefits.
Working Tax Credit run-on is the payment you receive for a further 4 weeks immediately after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit.
You can apply by using the form Healthy Start: How to claim – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) or you can call the helpline on 0345 607 6823.