Useful information on the range of benefits and financial help available to single and lone parents including child maintenance and working benefits.
The cost of bringing up a child can seem quite daunting especially if you are on your own. However, in addition to the baby benefits available to all new parents, there is a support system in place that is specifically designed to provide financial help for single or lone parents.
Income support is available to those over the age of 16 who are unable to work full time and as a consequence have insufficient funds to live on. If you are a lone parent, work less than 16 hours a week (an average) and have savings under Â£16,000 you may be eligible to receive this benefit.
The amount you receive is dependent on your individual circumstances and will be calculated based on factors such as your age, your average earnings and the number of dependent children you have. However, regardless of the amount you are granted, if you are eligible for income support you will also receive free prescriptions and dental care, housing and council tax benefits as well as free school meals for your children.
Under UK law, both parents are equally responsible for providing financial support for their child regardless of whether they actively contribute to the child's upbringing. This means that if you are raising your child alone, you are entitled to claim child maintenance payments from the non-residential parent. The amount that you will receive is means-tested and will be based on a percentage of his or her income.
The child support agency (CSA) can help to calculate and collect child maintenance support from non-residential parents who live in the UK or work abroad for a UK based employer. The CSA will become involved in this process when either parent asks for assistance or when the parent with care claims income support.
There is also help available for lone parents whose ex-partner has moved abroad as Britain has an arrangement with over 100 countries that allows a parent living in one country to claim maintenance from an ex-partner who lives in another
For more information on child maintenance visit www.csa.gov.uk
Child Maintenance Premium
You are likely to be eligible for the child maintenance premium if you have sole care of your child and are in receipt of Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance. This benefit allows you to keep up to Â£10 per week of any maintenance payments you receive for your children.
Lone Parent Benefits Run-on
If the following statements apply to you, you may be eligible for Lone Parents Benefit Run-on.
- You have been receiving Income Support, Minimum Income Guarantee or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance continually for at least 26 weeks.
- You have you been a lone parent for those 26 weeks.
- You have increased your working hours so that you are now working at least 16 hours a week or you are now working full-time in a job that you expect to last for at least 5 weeks.
If you are going back to work, lone parents benefit run-on provides you with financial help to tide you over until you are paid from your new job.
It is important to be aware that if you are going back to work or increasing your hours at an existing job, you must inform the department from which you receive benefits at once.
Visit the official government website (www.direct.gov.uk) for further information on the benefits available for lone parents.
By Lucy MacLauchlan