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 qualify for help towards the cost of your food bill.
What is a maternity grant and who qualifies?
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. You or your partner will also need to be receiving 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 to make the claim.
If you already have a child under 16 you may also be able to get the grant, provided you live in Scotland, or live elsewhere in the UK and are now expecting twins or triplets.
- Income-based jobseeker's allowance
- Income-related employment and support allowance
- Income support
- 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.
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.
|England, Wales & Northern Ireland||Scotland|
|First child and you're having twins||£1,000||£1,212|
|Already have a child/children under 16 and now expecting twins||£500 (1)||£909|
|Already have a child/children under 16 and now expecting triplets||£1,000 (2)||£1,212|
|Already have a child/children under 16 and now expecting another child (not twins/triplets)||£0||£303|
How you apply differs depending on which UK country you live in:
- In England or Wales. Print and fill in this application 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 the form 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 the form off without your health professional's 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 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 Foods, 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 022 4250.
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 is 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.
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 above, you can usually apply for the grant if second time round you're expecting 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 of £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.
The baby must be younger 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 items 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 above 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 the Best Start Grant if your parent or carer gets one of these benefits for you:
- The 'child addition' part of pension credit
- Child benefit
- Child tax credit
- Universal credit child payments
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 a child. Your child needs to be aged between two and three-and-a-half 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 items and activities such as clothes, toys and outings.
This is when you can apply:
|Your child's date of birth||When you can apply|
|Between 1 March 2017 and 28 February 2018||Between 1 June 2022 and 28 February 2023|
|Between 1 March 2018 and 28 February 2019||Between 1 June 2023 and 29 February 2024|
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. This is £20 a week 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 four weeks until your child turns six.
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 veg
- Fresh, dried or tinned pulses such as 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 fourth birthday. Ask your GP or midwife for more information about how to claim these.
Healthy Start paper vouchers are being replaced by digital prepaid cards
Healthy Start paper vouchers are ending and being replaced by digital prepaid cards. No more paper vouchers will be issued after 10 March 2022 but you have to actively apply for the new prepaid card. If you don't, you'll miss out on payments.
You can apply now for the new prepaid card, and you can continue to use your paper vouchers until they expire. If you're having difficulties applying online for the new prepaid card, call 0300 330 7010. But be warned – it costs 55p a minute and we've heard of long wait times. In Scotland you can call 0800 182 2222.
The NHS Business Services Authority has said it's aware that phone lines are extremely busy and, to help, it has set up a separate automated phone line for people who are calling to activate their card and check their balance. You can reach this on 0300 330 2090.
Who qualifies for Healthy Start food vouchers?
Again, who's eligible and how you apply differs depending on where in the UK you live:
- In England, Wales or 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 the following: child tax credits (only if your family's annual income is £16,190 or less), income-related employment and support allowance (ESA), income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance, pension credit or universal credit (but only if your family earns £408 or less a month from employment).
It's worth noting that if you're receiving income-related ESA, you'll only be eligible for the vouchers while you're pregnant, but not once your baby is born. To continue receiving the food vouchers, you'll need to switch to universal credit.
- In Scotland. You can apply for the Best Start Foods scheme from the beginning of your pregnancy, and if you receive any of:
- Child tax credits and working tax credits (income from work must be less than £7,500 a year)
- Child tax credits (household income must be £16,480 a year or less)
- Housing benefit (household income from work must be less than £317 a week)
- Income-based jobseeker's allowance
- Income-related employment and support allowance
- Income support
- Pension credit
- Universal credit (household income from work must be £625 a month or less)
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.
How do I use my Healthy Start food vouchers?
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, vouchers are currently issued every four weeks as physical paper vouchers, but these are being replaced by digital prepaid cards, with paper vouchers no longer being issued after 10 March 2022. Any paper vouchers you've got can be used until the expiry date shown.
You can apply for the new digital prepaid card now if you already get the paper vouchers or if you meet the eligibility criteria above. The new prepaid card will automatically be topped up every four weeks with your payment, and any money you don't spend will remain on your card for 16 weeks. Once you've received your card and PIN, you need to activate it by calling 0300 330 2090. For more information on this, see our new Healthy Start prepaid card MSE News story.
In Scotland, they're already using prepaid digital cards.
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:
- Convenience stores
- 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.
|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
What to do if you have issues applying
If you're having difficulties applying online for the new prepaid card, call 0300 330 7010 or 0800 182 2222 in Scotland.
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