Maternity grants and support for new parents

Maternity grants and support for new parents

Including Healthy Start food vouchers

Having children is expensive — the first year alone could reportedly cost a family in the UK an average of £6,000. But some parents can get a maternity grant worth at least £500 from the government, no strings attached, to help with the cost. Plus, you may also be eligible to get help with the cost of your food bill.
 

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What is a maternity grant and who is eligible?

You’ll usually be eligible for a maternity grant if you’re having a child (or adopting or becoming a surrogate parent) for the first time, and if you or your partner already get certain benefits.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the payment is a one-off "Sure Start Maternity Grant". In Scotland, it's called the "Best Start Grant" and is made up of three separate payments — the Pregnancy and Baby Payment, the Early Learning Payment and the School Age Payment.

You can claim the grant from 11 weeks before your baby is due (or in Scotland, 15 weeks before) and up to six months after your baby’s born. In the case of adoption or surrogacy, you have until your baby turns one year old to make the claim.

If you already have a child under 16 you may also be able to get it, provided you either live in Scotland, or live elsewhere in the UK and are now expecting twins or triplets.

In all cases, you must be claiming at least one of these benefits to be eligible to claim:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element
  • Universal Credit

You may also qualify if you’re getting a Support for Mortgage Interest loan, so it's worth applying for the grant and seeing if you're successful if you fall into this category.

How much is the maternity grant?

If you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, the Sure Start Maternity Grant is a one-off payment. In Scotland, you get a Pregnancy and Baby Payment, which is the first part of the Best Start Grant.

How much maternity grant could you get?

  England, Wales & Northern Ireland Scotland
First child £500 £606
First child and it's twins £1,000 £1,212
Already have a child(ren) under 16 and now expecting twins £500 (1) £909
Already have a child(ren) under 16 and now expecting triplets £1,000 (2) £1,212
Already have a child(ren) under 16 and now expecting another child (not twins/triplets) £0 £303

(1) This only applies if you haven't already had twins or triplets. (2) This only applies if you haven't already had triplets; if you've already had twins and are now having triplets, you can get a grant of £500.

How do I apply for the maternity grant?

How you apply differs depending on which country of the UK you live in:

  • In England and Wales. Print and fill out this form and get your doctor or midwife to fill in the statement on page 10.

    It's a good idea to ask them to do this as soon as possible — you can do it from when you're 29 weeks pregnant. So you could take it as part of your routine 31 week antenatal check up. The form is straightforward, but sorting paperwork once your newborn has arrived probably won't be at the top of your priorities, and you've only got until your baby is six months old to apply. You can send your form without this statement if you think you’ll miss the cut off, but you won't receive the payment until the statement has been completed.

    You can post the form to ‘Freepost DWP SSMG’ — you don't need a postcode or a stamp.

    If you need help with your claim, you can call the Sure Start Maternity Grant helpline on 0800 169 0140 or you can contact Jobcentre Plus.

  • In Scotland. You can apply online, by phone on 0800 182 2222 or send a printed form by post to:

    Best Start Grant and Best Start Food, PO Box 10300, DUNDEE, DD1 9FU

  • In Northern Ireland. You’ll need to print and complete this form. Then send it to

    Sure Start Maternity Grants, Mail Opening Unit, PO Box 42, Limavady, BT49 4AN

    If you need help with your claim, you can call the Sure Start Maternity Grant helpline on 0800 169 0140 or you can contact Jobcentre Plus.

How is the maternity grant paid to me?

Once your claim's been received, you’ll get a letter telling you if it has been successful. If so, the money will be paid into your bank account within two to three weeks. Note that if you get Universal Credit, you won’t get a decision on your claim until after you receive your next payment.

What if my maternity grant application was turned down? Can I appeal?

If you weren’t successful, you can challenge the decision. In Scotland, there will be details on your letter about how to do this.

Quick questions

  • If you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, already have a child (or children) under 16, and are receiving one of the benefits mentioned in the guide above, you can usually apply for the grant if your second child is going to be twins or triplets.

    You'll get £500 for twins (unless you've already had twins or triplets, in which case you aren't entitled to the grant), and £1,000 if it's triplets (unless you've already had triplets, in which case you aren't entitled to the grant; if you've already had twins and are now having triplets, you can get a grant for £500).

    In Scotland, you can get the maternity grant for every child you have, but the amount you get is more if it's your first: £606 for your first child and £303 for each child after that.

  • You may also be able to get the grant if you’re adopting or becoming a surrogate parent.

    The baby must be less than one year old on the date you claim, you must be receiving one of the benefits mentioned above, and one of the following must also apply:

    • you’ve become responsible for the baby and you’re not the mother
    • the baby has been placed with you for adoption
    • you’ve got permission to adopt a baby from abroad
    • you’ve got a parental order for a surrogate birth
    • you’ve been appointed as guardian
    • you’ve an adoption or a residence order
  • Yes. The money is to help pay for the costs of having a baby or young child, such as buying nappies, baby clothes, a cot. 

    But no one is going to check if you actually spend it on these things or something else. 

  • Yes. You can get the £500 maternity grant (or the Scottish equivalent) as long as you're claiming at least one of the benefits listed in this guide and you're expecting your first child (or your second is twins or triplets). 

  • No. It will not affect your other benefits or tax credits and as it's a grant, you don't need to pay it back.

  • You can still get the maternity grant for a baby that was stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy, or if the baby died after they were born. If you're paid when you're pregnant, and your baby is stillborn or dies later, you won't need to pay any money back. You can still apply up to three months after the baby's birth date (or up to six months after in Scotland). This won't count as your first child and you'll still be eligible to apply for the grant again, if you have a successful pregnancy in the future.

    If you're employed, you may also be entitled to statutory parental bereavement pay and leave.

  • In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, if you're under 20 years old and expecting your first baby, your parent (in other words, the baby's grandparent) can apply for the maternity grant on your behalf, as long as they're already claiming one of the qualifying benefits for you.

    In Scotland, if you're under 18, you don't need to be getting any benefits to get the Best Start Grant. If you're 18 or 19 but don't get any benefits, you can still apply for Best Start Grant if your parent or carer gets one of these benefits for you:

    • Child Tax Credit
    • Child Benefit
    • Universal Credit child payments
    • the child addition part of Pension Credit

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In Scotland you can get two extra payments as your child gets older

If you live in Scotland and are getting certain benefits or tax credits, you can claim the Best Start Grant. This is made up of three separate payments - and you can claim all three for each of your children:

  • The Baby and Pregnancy Payment. This is as explained above 

  • The Early Learning Payment. This is £252.50 per child. Your child needs to be aged between two and three and a half years old when you apply, but they don't need to be attending nursery.
  • The School Age Payment. This is another £252.50, paid when your child is about to start primary school. These payments are to help with things like clothes, toys and outings. 

This is when you can apply:

Scotland's School Age Payment: when to apply

Your child's date of birth When you can apply
Between 1 March 2016 and 28 February 2017 Between 1 June 2021 and 28 February 2022
Between 1 March 2017 and 28 February 2018 Between 1 June 2022 and 28 February 2023

Scottish child payments

On top of the Best Start Grant, if you’re a Scottish resident and claiming one of the income benefits listed in this guide, you can also apply for the Scottish Child Payment of £10 a week (increasing to £20 from April 2022), for every child you look after who's under six years old. By the end of 2022, the Scottish Government hopes to extend the scheme to all eligible children under 16.

If your claim is successful, you'll get the payment every 4 weeks until your child turns six. 

You can apply for three schemes - the Scottish Child Payment, Best Start Grant and another called Best Start Foods — using the same form.

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You may also be eligible for Healthy Start food vouchers

The Healthy Start scheme (Best Start Foods in Scotland) was introduced by the Government to help children have a healthy start in life by helping families buy nutritious foods and milk for their kids. You can use the vouchers in over 30,000 shops in the UK to buy:

  • plain cow’s milk
  • infant formula milk
  • fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables
  • fresh, dried, and tinned pulses like lentils, beans, peas and barley

You can also get free vitamin supplements during pregnancy and while your child is under one, plus vitamins for your child(ren) until their 4th birthday. Ask your GP or midwife for more information about how to claim these. 

Who's eligible for Healthy Start food vouchers?

Again, who's eligible and how you apply differs depending where in the UK you live:

  • In England, Wales and Northern Ireland. You can apply for Healthy Start food vouchers if both of the following apply:

    - You’re at least 10 weeks pregnant, or you have at least one child under four years old; and
    - You or your partner receive any of Child Tax Credits (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 or universal Credit (but only if your family earns £408 or less per month from employment)

  • In Scotland. You can apply for the Best Start Food scheme from the beginning of your pregnancy, and if you receive any of:

    - Child Tax Credits (household income must be £16,480 or less per year)
    - Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit (income from work must be less than £7,500 per year)
    - Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
    - Income Support
    - income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
    - Pension credit
    - Universal Credit (household income from work must be £625 or less per month)
    - Housing benefit (household income from work must be less than £317 a week)

You’ll also be eligible for the Healthy Start or Best Start scheme if you’re pregnant and under 18, even if you don’t receive any benefits.

Healthy Start food vouchers

When are you eligible How much you'll get
From the 10th week of your pregnancy (or from week one of your pregnancy in Scotland) £17
(£18 in Scotland) every four weeks

From when your child is born until they are one year old

£34

(£36 in Scotland) every four weeks 

For children between one and four years old (until three years old in Scotland)

£17

(£18 in Scotland) every four weeks

How do I use my Healthy Start food vouchers?

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, vouchers are issued as physical paper vouchers, but these are being replaced by digital prepaid cards, with paper vouchers being stopped sometime in 2022. In Scotland, these are already prepaid digital cards. 

You’ll receive your vouchers by post every four weeks, or if you have a prepaid card, this will be automatically topped up every four weeks.

You can use your vouchers in most places that sell milk, infant formula, fruit, and vegetables. If you have a card, look out for the Mastercard logo, normally on the shop door or at the till, to see where it's accepted. Generally you'll be able to use vouchers and cards at:

  • supermarkets
  • convenience stores
  • pharmacies
  • newsagents
  • butchers
  • petrol stations 

In Scotland, you can also use the Best Start Foods card for online supermarket orders.

You’ll stop receiving the vouchers once your child turns four (or three in Scotland), or if you stop receiving benefits.

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