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Bringing up a family is expensive, so it makes sense to claim all your financial entitlements. Here’s what to look out for

There are plenty of benefits and entitlements out there to help with the cost of raising a family. But these allowances and bonuses can change and it pays to know what’s what. We’ve rounded up some important changes that are taking place in 2018 and beyond.

What are the changes to childcare vouchers?

During 2018, the childcare voucher scheme will close to new sign-ups. This is to make way for the Tax-Free Childcare scheme. Until the scheme is closed, you may be able to choose which one suits your circumstances better – find out more with the government’s ‘better off’ calculator. 

What is Tax-Free Childcare?

Tax-Free Childcare is being rolled out; the government will put £2 in the pot for every £8 you spend per child on childcare, up to a maximum of £2,000 per child (or £4,000 for a disabled children). The scheme is available right up until teenage years, depending on your circumstances: you can apply online via the government website. If you’ve switched to Tax-Free Childcare from childcare vouchers, don’t forget to tell your employer to stop your childcare vouchers within 90 days.

Can I still claim Child Tax Credit?

Child Tax Credit is one of many benefits currently being rolled into a new benefit called Universal Credit, but you may still qualify, especially if Universal Credit isn’t currently available where you live. If you do live in a Universal Credit area you could still apply if you have three or more children, or if you or your partner have reached state pension age. Find out more about what you’re entitled to on the government’s Child Tax Credit page.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is replacing Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit during 2018, rolling a range of benefits into one. It will also cover the costs of Housing Benefits, Income Support and Jobseekers’ Allowance if you’re currently entitled to these benefits. All these previous benefits are scheduled to be fully moved into Universal Credit by March 2022. This is quite a complicated change to the benefits system, so take a look at the Universal Credit government website for all the info you need.

And will we still get free school meals?

As Universal Credit is rolled out more widely, it may affect who is eligible for school meals. It is decided by a combination of factors, including whether you are already on Universal Credit and how much you earn. To see if your child is eligible and for how long, you can apply online for free school meals.

Figures are correct as of March 2018.

If you’re concerned about your family’s finances, you can talk to the Money Advice Service. For the latest updates on all these benefits and more, visit gov.uk

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