Finance Wellbeing Guide for Single Parents

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Being a single parent comes with its unique set of challenges and one of the most pressing concerns is financial stability. Utilising financial resources can make a significant difference to you and your child’s wellbeing, as well as to building a secure future.

Finding the right financial resources can be overwhelming which is why we’ve compiled a list of financial support funded by the government, which you could be eligible for as a single parent. The resources offer a range of assistance from payments to help with living costs. This article also includes a list of other online financial resources such as the MoneySavingExpert website, Open Learn courses and webinars which can help you take control of your finances.

Overview of financial support and resources:

  1. Universal Credit
  2. Child Benefit
  3. Council Tax Reduction
  4. NHS Low Income Scheme
  5. Free Childcare
  6. Free School Meals
  7. Healthy Start Vouchers
  8. Warm Home Discount Scheme
  9. Online Financial Resources
    1. MoneyHelper
    2. MoneySavingExpert
    3. Comparison websites
    4. Money Advice Trust
    5. Citizens Advice
    6. The Money Charity
    7. National Association for Child Support Action (NACSA)
    8. National Debt Line
    9. Open Learn courses
    10. Expert Q&As

1. Universal Credit 

Universal Credit is a payment paid monthly to help you with your living costs. 

You may be eligible for Universal Credit if you’re on a low income but you must meet some requirements:

  • You have to live in the UK
  • You have to be 18 or over
  • You have to be under the State Pension age
  • You have £16,000 or less in money, savings and investments

You can claim Universal Credit in various circumstances such as if you’re working, out of work or unable to work due to a health condition. With Universal Credit, you receive a standard amount each month, and you can also get extra depending on your housing costs and how many children you have.

You can also claim if you’re a single parent in full-time education or part-time education for which no student loan or finance is available.

You can apply for Universal Credit online, or if you need help with your claim then you can call the Universal Credit helpline (0800 328 5644) or use the Help to Claim service.

2. Child Benefit 

You can claim Child Benefit if you’re responsible for bringing up a child who is under 16, or under 20 if they are in approved education or training. Child Benefit is an allowance paid every 4 weeks to you for each of your children. 

The weekly rate for the eldest or only child is £24.00 and £15.90 per child for additional children. As Child Benefit is paid every 4 weeks, the total works out to a minimum of £96 which could make a difference to your grocery shopping or for purchasing any necessities for your child.

There is no limit to how many children you can claim for but only one person can get Child Benefit for a child therefore, as a single parent, this is something you will need to discuss with your child’s other parent if applicable. 

The eligibility criteria outlines that you’re ‘responsible for a child’ if you either live with them or if you’re paying at least the same amount as Child Benefit towards looking after them.

There are also some other benefits for claiming Child Benefit. By claiming it, you can get National Insurance credits which count towards your State Pension and your child will get a National Insurance number shortly before turning 16 without having to apply for it.

You can make a Child Benefit claim online, by post or by phone.

3. Council Tax Reduction  

Council Tax can make a real dent in your wallet but you could be eligible for a discount or even a reduction of up to 100% if you’re on a low income or claim benefits.

You can apply for a Council Tax Reduction if you own your home, rent, are unemployed or working.

You need to enter your postcode on the Government website and will be redirected to your local council website as each council runs its own scheme. The reduction you can get depends on where you live, your circumstances, your household income, if your children live with you and if other adults live with you.

4. NHS Low Income Scheme

If you have a low income, and your savings, investments or property don’t exceed £16,000, then you could be eligible for the NHS Low Income Scheme to get either full or partial help which could cover the cost of:

  • NHS prescription charges
  • NHS dental treatment charges
  • The cost of eye tests, glasses and contact lenses
  • The cost of travelling to receive NHS treatment
  • NHS wigs and fabric supports

You can apply online or you can apply by post. The NHS Low Income Scheme website has a form which you can order or download. The help you’re entitled to is also available to any dependent young people.

The NHS Low Income Scheme certificate is usually valid for between 6 months and 5 years, depending on your income and changes in your circumstances.

If you receive assistance such as Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Pension Credit Guarantee Credit, Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits or Universal Credit then you are already entitled to full help with costs.

5. Free childcare  

All parents of children aged 3 to 4 are entitled to 570 hours of free early education or childcare a year. This often works out to 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year (during school term time). This support is for all parents and does not depend on your income or any benefits you claim.

You could also get free childcare for 2-year-olds if you receive any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit, and your household income is £15,400 a year or less after tax, not including benefit payments
  • The guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit (or both), and your household income is £16,190 a year or less before tax
  • The Working Tax Credit 4-week run on (the payment you get when you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit)

You can find free early education and childcare on the Government website. You will need to enter your postcode and be redirected to your local council website to get more information.

If you’re a working parent then you may also be eligible for an extended 15 hours of childcare, which would work out to 30 hours of free childcare for 38 weeks of the year (during school term time). Your eligibility for 30 hours of childcare depends on your employment status, your income, your child’s age and circumstances and your immigration status. For more detail, visit the government’s 30 hours free childcare website.

It’s possible to get free childcare for 52 weeks if you use less than 30 hours per week.

6. Free school meals 

It’s important that every child gets enough nutrition a day and free school meals can make a massive difference to a child’s life.

Children in reception class, year 1 and year 2 already receive free school meals if they’re in a government-funded school, however, children in higher years can also receive them depending on some eligibility criteria.

Your child may be able to get free school meals if you get any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit – if you applied on or after 1 April 2018 your household income must be less than £7,4000 a year (after taxes and not including any payments from benefits)

To apply for free school meals for your child, enter your postcode on the Government website which will redirect you to your local authority website where you can fill out an online application or find contact information for the schools’ meal team in your area.

7. Healthy Start Vouchers 

You may be eligible for Healthy Start Vouchers which can be used to buy milk, as well as fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables. The payment can also be used to buy infant formula and fresh, dried or tinned pulses.

With Healthy Start Vouchers you can receive:

  • £4.25 each week of your pregnancy (from the 10th week of your pregnancy).
  • £8.50 each week for children from birth to 1 year old
  • £4.25 each week for children between 1 and 4 years old 

You could also get free Healthy Start vitamin tablets for yourself, up to your baby’s 1st birthday and Healthy Start vitamin drops for your children from the age of 4 weeks to their 4th birthday. You can ask your midwife or health visitor where to get the free vitamins, and you can also find out who stocks the vitamins in your local area on the NHS Choices website.

If you get Universal Credit, you can apply online if you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have at least one child under 4 years old, and your family’s monthly earned income is £408 or less.

Most people can also apply online if they receive Child Tax Credit and are more than 10 weeks pregnant and have no other children, or are more than 10 weeks pregnant and have children under 4 years old, or are not pregnant but have children under the age of 4.

If you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant and have other children who are aged 4 and older, you need to apply by email or phone. To be eligible for Healthy Start Vouchers if you get Child Tax Credit, you must not get Working Tax Credit and your family’s annual income must be £16,190 or less

You can also apply by email or phone if you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have at least one child under 4 and get either:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit

Email: [email protected] 

Phone: 0300 330 7010

8. Warm Home Discount Scheme  

The scheme for the Warm Home Discount will open for winter 2023 to 2024 in October 2023.

You may be eligible for £150 off your electricity bill, or your gas bill if your supplier provides you with both gas and electricity and you meet the criteria. You qualify for the Warm Home Discount Scheme if you get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit or are on a low income and have high energy costs.

In the previous year, those who were eligible received a letter between November and January and most eligible households received an automatic discount from their electricity supplier.

Make sure to regularly check the Warm Home Discount Scheme website for any updates on the upcoming winter discount. 

Assuming the criteria and the application of the scheme stay the same, you should receive a letter but if you don’t and think you’re eligible then you will need to contact the Warm Home Discount helpline.

9. Online Financial Resources

While the government provides a range of benefits and schemes, there’s a vast array of financial wellbeing resources to explore on the internet. These websites can help you take control of your finances by providing you with tools and information on different topics such as budgeting, benefit changes, comparing products and services, as well as debt advice.

A logo of MoneyHelper

a. MoneyHelper 

MoneyHelper offers free and impartial help with money by bringing together the support and services of three government-backed guidance providers: Money Advice Service, The Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise.

They offer several resources such as tools and calculators, as well as in-depth guides, on the MoneyHelper website which include information about managing your everyday money, benefits, money troubles, pensions and retirement, as well as family and care and other topics.

If you’re looking for pensions or money guidance then there are various ways to get free personal advice by getting in touch with a MoneyHelper advisor. They offer this service over the telephone, through an online form, webchat and Whatsapp.

MoneyHelper also runs a private Facebook community group ‘Your pension and planning for the future’ for those with pension issues and who want to plan for retirement.

b. MoneySavingExpert 

MoneySavingExpert is one of the biggest consumer sites in the UK, with more than 16 million users a month. The site is dedicated to cutting your bills and fighting your corner with research, tools and a massive community which is all focused on finding deals, saving cash and campaigning for financial justice.

On the MoneySavingExpert website you can find detailed money saving guides, money saving tools such as an income tax calculator and a budget planner, as well as a forum split into sections such as bargain spotting or getting out of your debt. You can also sign up to the MSE Money Tips weekly email which brings you the latest deals, guides and loopholes.

Martin Lewis, who is a financial journalist and founder of MoneySavingExpert also has a television series on ITV titled ‘The Martin Lewis Money Show Live’ where he answers financial questions which matter to you and delves into various current topics such as the Cost of Living crisis and interest rises. You can watch past episodes on the ITV website.

c. Comparison websites 

There are many comparison websites which you can use to find the best deals and prices of products and services. Websites such as Compare the and Uswitch can help you reduce your costs by showing you the best prices for products and services such as energy bills, mobile, TV and broadband, various types of insurance such as car and pet insurance, as well as travel.

Money to the Masses have published an article which details the best comparison sites for each service and product you may be looking for. You can find the article on their website.

d. Money Advice Trust

Money Advice Trust is a national charity which helps people across the UK tackle their debts and manage their money with confidence. They provide a range of services which include the National Debtline, a Business Debtline and Money Advice Trust training and consultancy to organisations and customer-facing staff.

The Money Advice Trust blog contains insights and opinions from debt advice experts on topics such as the cost of living pressures and council tax collection rules. You can also find ‘Deal with Debt’ guides and other supporting materials on their website, as well as stay up to date with the financial landscape through their research and reports.

e. Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice is a national charity which offers free, confidential advice online, over the phone and in person at your local Citizens Advice office. If you’d like to speak to someone in person then you can search for your local Citizens Advice by typing in your postcode or the name of your local area on their website search.

Citizens Advice provide comprehensive information and advice on managing your finances on a range of topics:

  • Debt and money – this section provides you the information you need to make the right choices which includes help to deal with your debt problems, how to avoid losing your home and getting your finances back into shape
  • Benefits – the benefits section provides information on different types of benefits and tax credits if you are working or unemployed, sick or disabled, a parent, a young person, an older person or a veteran. You will also find information on council tax and housing costs and national insurance
  • Consumer – the consumer page offers guidance on paying bills, saving energy and more. It covers topics such as getting compensation for travel, buying cars, and also provides letter templates for refunds or complaints. The information can also assist you with products and services such as insurance, water, phone, internet and TV, as well as spotting scams.
  • Work – the Citizens Advice page on work has vital information on important issues such as what to do when your employer hasn’t paid what they owe you, how to get money after your sick pay runs out and how to apply for flexible working.

f. The Money Charity 

The Money Charity empowers people across the UK to develop the skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours to make the most of their money throughout their lives. The charity provides help to people of all ages and at all stages of life. 

The charity provides articles on topics such as everyday moneyfinancial productssavingdebt and forward planning. They also run workshops and webinars for young people and adults and undertake policy and research work which they provide a monthly report on.

You can use their Budget Builder tool to track your day-to-day spending, create your budget and set up a system to organise your money across various bank accounts which can help you save money efficiently but also realise where in your life you can spend more to treat yourself.

The Money Charity also provides a free downloadable copy of The Money Manual which is a step-by-step guide that will help you shape your financial future, explore ways of saving, discuss credit and borrowing options, provide you with information on different financial products and help you look at how you can boost your income and get the most from your bank account.

g. National Association for Child Support Action (NACSA)

NACSA provides expert advice and guidance to parents who encounter problems with Child Maintenance Service decisions. They provide help sheets on how to calculate your pay, and provide information for both the receiving and paying parent on their General Information page.

They also provide paid services which start with a Preliminary Consultation to discuss the specifics of your case and identify what, if any, aspects require further work. They provide a Full Representation Service, Tribunals Support and Debt & Full Case Audits, as well as provide advice on how to take forward the necessary steps by yourself.

You can watch the presentation section of our Q&A with Michelle Counley, Senior Consultant at NACSA, on our YouTube channel. The presentation provides a summary of the services offered by NACSA and Michelle Counley shared useful information on child maintenance for receiving parents. She discusses types of income and its declaration, steps of dispute and how to be prepared during an appeal.

h. National DebtLine

National DebtLine can provide you with the help and support you need to deal with your debts yourself. They offer various ways of help:

  • Phone – you can call the National Debt Line on 0808 808 4000 from Monday to Friday between 9am-8pm and on Saturdays between 9.30am-1pm. You will be able to speak to an adviser who will give you impartial and non-judgmental advice.
  • Digital Advice Tool – the tool is available 24/7 and it asks the same questions you would get on the call. The tool will provide you with tailored advice on dealing with your debts but you can still decide to call to speak to their advisers.
  • Webchat – you can use the webchat for emergency advice or one-off questions. The webchat is open Monday to Friday between 9am-8pm and on Saturdays between 9.30am-1pm. If you want full advice on your options or you have done a budget with them before then they advise you to call them instead.

If you’re anxious about speaking to someone about your debts then you can read through the National DebtLine’s ‘Getting ready for advice’ fact sheet to prepare yourself.

You can also find emergency debt advice on their website if their phone and webchat services are not open.

i. OpenLearn courses

OpenLearn offers a range of free courses that can help you to learn more about various aspects of personal finance such as budgeting, saving for the future and debt.

  • MSE’s Academy of Money – The Open University in collaboration with MoneySavingExpert has produced a course which is packed with videos, audios, quizzes and activities which cover all key aspects of personal finance. The course is divided into six sessions that each take around 2 hours to complete.
  • Midlife MOT: wealth, work and wellbeing – the midlife MOT, created in collaboration with Legal & General, can help you take a look at your finances and see what needs attention, as well as help you look at your general health and fitness, and career to make sure you’re on track. 
  • You and your money – This 12 hour course will help you understand the basics of debt and interest, appreciate different forms of unsecured lending and apply the financial planning model to the borrowing process. The course aims to explore the issues of you and your money with respect to the wider, changing, social and economic context.

j. Expert Q&As

If you’re a member of the Asian Single Parents Network then you can access the Q&A presentation with Michael Hayes, Family Barrister, in the Members’ Area. Michael discussed what you need to know about divorce and pensions such as methods of dealing with pensions, information on pensions held overseas and more.

You can also watch our Q&A with Lena Patel who is a Financial Planner. Lena discussed the cost of living, inflation and reviewing your interest rates, as well as keeping a cash reserve.

While government support for single parents has its limitations, it’s important to be aware of any schemes or support available which can improve your quality of life. The resources provided by the government such as Universal Credit, free childcare and the Warm Home Discount Scheme can serve as invaluable aids during challenging times.

Additionally, seeking guidance from financial advice websites such as MoneyHelper, Citizens Advice or The Money Charity can provide you with tools and insights into managing your everyday money and building a stronger financial foundation. Watching our Q&As with an Expert can also help you to gain more insight into aspects of finance that are important to single parents.

Remember, you are never alone and there is support available to help you and your children on your path to financial stability and a brighter future.