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Every month, through our Ask an Expert feature,
Turn2us users are given the chance to ask a panel panel of experts
their specific questions relating to benefits, grants and managing
The answers given on this page were correct at the time of
publication and some of the details may have changed. This
page is provided for archive information only.
See Benefits: Expecting or bringing up a
child and Benefits: Education costs for current
We invited you to submit your questions
on Children and Childcare to the Ask an Expert panel.
Here are the answers to a selection of the questions we
On this page you will find:
Advice Development Manager
Gingerbread (link opens in a new
window) - providing expert advice, practical support and
campaigning for single parents.
Senior Family Support Co-ordinator
Family Lives (link opens in a new
window) - the parenting advice and support charity.
Welfare Benefits Specialist
Julie Mitchell: From September 2011,
prospective students claiming Income
Support or Working Tax Credit will
not be entitled for exemption from paying fees like they have been
in the recent past, unless they come under the categories below.
Full fee remission is available for 2011/12 if:
• You are aged 16 to 19
on the 31 August before you enrol on the course. In Wales you do
not have to pay fees while you are aged 16 to 18; or
• You are aged 19 to 24
and the course you are doing leads to your first level 2
qualification. This is the same as five or more GCSEs at grades
A-C, an intermediate GNVQ or NVQ level two. After completing level
2, you can also go on to take a level three qualification (e.g. an
Access course, two A levels or equivalent, or an advanced GNVQ) and
get the fee remission; or
• You are aged 25 or
over and your course leads to your first level two qualification or
your first level three qualification if you have not already taken
a level two course; or
• If you are claiming
Jobseeker's Allowance or the work related
activity component of Employment and Support
Allowance, your college should not charge tuition fees.
Single parents on Income Support may still be able to get some
help for paying the fees from the college’s Discretionary Learner
Support Funds in England and Financial Contingency Funds in Wales.
These funds are not guaranteed and are meant to be used to pay for
childcare, emergencies, accommodation, and course-related equipment
and travel costs. Colleges set their own criteria and administer
the grants in different ways. The payment could be a loan or a
grant. However, funding from colleges is more limited than in the
recent past and many single parents find that there is not enough
in the funds by the time they apply and that the fund is
prioritised for existing students.
It is advisable to speak to the college to see if they offer any
The only other option is charitable grants that may cover small
amounts or one-off fees, but are unlikely to cover childcare costs
for a whole year. Contact the Horizons
Education Fund for single parents (link opens in a new
window) or the Educational
Grants Service (link opens in a new window) for more
information. You could also use the Turn2us
Grants Search database.
Julie Mitchell: As she is under the age of
20, your daughter can claim 'Care to Learn' funds for
help with the costs of childcare while studying. To apply,
she can contact the Learner Support
Helpline (link opens in a new window). The childcare she uses
must be registered with Ofsted (link
opens in a new window). It cannot be provided by a friend or
family member, unless they are a registered childcare professional
and they do not live with her. It can also help with any extra
travelling costs she has because of taking her child to
the child carer.
The maximum amount she can claim is up to £160 a week, or
£175 if she lives in London. It does not matter how many hours she
studies each week or how long the course is. Receiving these
payments will not usually affect the amount of benefits or Tax
Credits she may receive.
If she works, she cannot claim help with
childcare costs through Working Tax
Credit if these are already being paid for by the Care to Learn
scheme. She may be able to claim Working Tax Credit for any
additional childcare not covered by Care to Learn.
She may also be eligible to apply
Back to top
Karen Holmes: A person's maximum
amount of Working Tax Credit (WTC)
is made up of different elements. For example, there is a basic
element for all claimants, an extra element if you work 30 hours or
more, and a childcare element (for people who pay a registered
childcare provider), there are others as well. These
elements are all added together and then compared to your income.
Because of this there is not one set earnings level under
which people will qualify, it will be different for each
On the information we have about your friends it seems they
would lose entitlement to WTC at around £17,700 but they would be
best putting their details into the Turn2us Benefit Calculator and carrying out a full
entitlement check. It seems they will be entitled to some Child Tax Credit and if they are in rented
accommodation they may be entitled to some Housing Benefit
(HB England, Scotland, Wales or HB Northern Ireland) to help towards their
housing costs as well.
Karen Holmes: In order to qualify for the
Childcare element of Working Tax Credit,
to help towards paying for registered childcare, you are right in
thinking you would both need to be doing at least 16
hours of paid work per week. People who have more than one job can
add the total hours from each together, this includes self-employed
people who can include hours spent working 'in expectation of
Mitchell: If you are working 16 hours a week or more, you
may be entitled to help towards childcare costs as part of your tax
credits claim, even if you are repaying an overpayment. You can
claim for the long school holidays or for your average costs over
52 weeks. Contact the Tax
Credit helpline (link opens in a new window) and see
You may be able to prevent your Tax Credit payments stopping,
especially where there was an official error and you did everything
to ensure your claim was paid correctly. If you have to repay,
you usually receive 75-90% of your payments whilst they take back
what you owe but if you only had about £10 per week Tax Credits,
the payments stop until all the overpayment is repaid. Note: Your
claim has not come to an end. The amount you are entitled to is
being used to repay the overpayment. Seek independent benefits
advice for more information. You can use the Turn2us Find an Advisor tool to find a local adviser.
If you pay rent and/or Council Tax, repaying
Tax Credits means you are now living on a lower income so you could
become entitled to Housing Benefit (HB
England, Scotland, Wales or HB Northern
Ireland) and Council Tax
Benefit (available in England, Scotland, Wales
only) for the first time or an increased amount. Ask your
local council about claiming to be sure you are not missing out.
You can find contact details for
your local council on the Gov.UK website (link opens in a new
Independent free debt advice is available from
National Debtline (link opens
in a new window). They can assist you with setting an
arrangement to pay an affordable amount to the companies you owe
money to without leaving you short on basic living expenses. If you
are already paying back something towards your debts, inform the
companies of your decreased income and extra childcare expenses to
try to negotiate a lower repayment rate.
Finally, this may be a good time to check your
options on child maintenance if possible. Any amount of child
maintenance received will not lead to a reduction in your benefits
or Tax Credits, so it is worth ensuring that you are being fairly
paid. See the Child Maintenance Options website for
more information (link opens in a new window).
Julie Mitchell: No, you will not have to
wait several weeks before payments are made if you claim Income Support. You can claim Income Support
because you have a child under seven years of age. There are
no penalties or ‘sanctions’ for giving up work, regardless of the
reason for leaving work. If you meet all the conditions of
entitlement, you can be paid from your date of claim.
Income Support is means tested so you may not be entitled to
claim if, for example, you have savings or capital worth over
£16,000. If this is the case, you can try claiming Jobseeker's Allowance if you have paid enough
national insurance contributions recently. Sometimes
people are sanctioned for giving up work if they
claim Jobseeker's allowance and may not be paid for up to six
months. This is unlikely to happen to you because you arguably have
a very good reason why you had to give up work because of the
childcare problems that you tried your best to resolve is. If you
are refused, you should appeal and ask for a hardship payment,
which pays you 60% of the usually rate.
You will still be entitled to Child
Benefit and Child Tax Credit. If you
are entitled to Income Support, you will receive full help to pay
your rent and Council Tax if you also claim Housing Benefit
(HB England, Scotland, Wales or HB Northern Ireland) and Council Tax Benefit (available in England,
Scotland, Wales only). If you claim Jobseeker's Allowance, you may
not be entitled to the full rate.
Choosing to work 12 hours a week may be important to you to keep
up your work skills but you will no longer be entitled to Working Tax Credit including help to pay
childcare costs. This can make part time work difficult to manage.
You may able to get a small amount of Income Support
but Income Support is reduced by the amount of your
earnings over £20 per week. It is worth getting a better off
calculation done by a benefit adviser to compare your options.
Karen Holmes: Whether a grandparent
bringing up their grandchild will be entitled to benefits
for that child will often depend on the arrangement.
You don't have to be the child's parent to claim Child Benefit, but you must be responsible for
the child, which usually means they live with you. This benefit
isn't means tested, so income and savings are not taken into
account. Only one person can claim Child Benefit for a particular
child, so if more than one person makes a claim there is an order
Child Tax Credit is also a payment to
support families with children but this is for people on a low
income so income will be taken into account. Again, you don't have
to be the parent, a grandparent can claim it if they
are responsible for a child and that child usually lives
with them. Like with Child Benefit, only one person can claim Child
Tax Credit for a particular child.
If a single grandparent, under Pension
Credit age, takes on responsibility for a child under
seven, they may be entitled to Income
Support as a lone parent depending on their income and savings.
The government intends to reduce the age limit to a child
under five for new claims made from October 2011.
There can be difficulties if benefit offices dispute
whether a grandparent is the primary carer when it comes
to benefit claims, so it is important to seek advice from an
experienced adviser. Use our Find an
There are also payments which local authorities can make
depending on the arrangement under which the child has been placed
with the grandparent. So it is worth contacting your local
authority to see if you qualify for a payment, or discretionary
payment, through them. You can find the contact details for your
local authority on the Gov.UK website (link opens in
a new window).
An organisation such as
Grandparents' Association (link opens in a new window) can
provide further advice and information about the financial
help available to grandparents who are raising a grandchild.
Karen Holmes: Once your child is placed
with you you will be entitled to Child
Benefit on top of your reduced salary and Statutory Adoption Pay. Whether you are entitled
to other benefits will depend on your income. If you input your
details into the Turn2us Benefit
Calculator, based on your situation once your child is with
you, then any benefit entitlement will be identified for you. This
could include Child Tax Credit. Tax
Credits are initially based on the previous year's income, so
remember to input your estimated income for the current year as
well if it will be lower than last year.
The opinions expressed are those of the expert only. The answers
and associated material are for general information only and do not
constitute financial, legal or other form of advice. You should not
rely on this information as an alternative to financial, legal or
professional advice from a qualified professional for your own
particular situation. The answers are given in response to specific
questions submitted by other users. You should not rely on this
information alone to make (or refrain from making) any
While effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the
information, Turn2us does not accept any liability for this
information. It is the responsibility of users to check the
accuracy of relevant facts and opinions given as part of any answer
before entering into any commitment based upon the information
Date of publication: August 2011
Updated: 7 August 2012
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