There are a number of potential sources of financial help for grandparents and others who are caring for a relative’s or friend’s child.
We deal with the main benefits on other pages. Below we list some other sources of financial help which you may not be aware of.
- Local authority payments
- Child maintenance
- Healthy Start vouchers
- Sure Start Maternity Grant
- Free school meals
- Free school transport
- School clothing grants
- 16-19 Bursary Fund
- Help with health costs
- Warm Home Discount Scheme
- Furniture projects
- Grants from charities and benevolent funds
- Local welfare assistance
In some circumstances, financial support may be available if you obtain a legal order formalising the arrangements for the care and upbringing of the child. Local authorities have powers to pay allowances to people with Residence Orders, Child Arrangements Orders and Special Guardianship Orders.
These payments are discretionary and likely to be means-tested. This means that the local authority will look at your needs and your financial situation, and at their own policy. They will then make a decision on whether or not to make any payments to you. Any decision they make should be reasonable, take account of relevant case law and respect certain fundamental human rights. Otherwise, it may be challenged in court.
If a child is placed with you by the local authority, then unless you agree with them when they place the child that it is to be a private arrangement, you may be entitled to be assessed as a foster carer and receive a fostering allowance. This is a complicated area of law – contact Family Rights Group (see below) for further advice.
Each local authority is under a general duty to provide support to ‘children in need’ and their families under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This can include financial support, both as a one off and on an ongoing basis.
A child is in need if s/he is under 18 and either
- s/he needs extra help from Children’s Services to be safe and healthy or to develop properly; or
- s/he is disabled.
Government guidance to local authorities says that they should have in place clear eligibility criteria in relation to the provision of support services under Section 17 to children living with family and friends carers.
The Government guidance also requires every local authority to have a policy setting out the range of support services for children in family and friends care. You can contact your local authority to ask about their policy and practice on family and friends care.
If you do not think that you are receiving the support that you need, you can contact us for advice.
Family Rights Group
Telephone: 0808 801 0366 Monday to Friday 9.30am-3.00pm
Family Rights Group provides free confidential advice to families whose children are involved with, or require, local authority services because of welfare needs or concerns.
Unless the child is looked after by the local authority, you could ask the parents to pay child maintenance, because they remain financially responsible for the child whilst they are living with you.
In 2014 charges were introduced for people who pay or receive child maintenance through the Child Maintenance Service (which replaces the Child Support Agency). For more information about these charges click here.
Child Maintenance Options
Telephone: 0800 988 0988 Monday to Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 9am-4pm
Child Maintenance Options provides impartial information and support in relation to child maintenance.
These can be exchanged for free milk, fruit or vegetables. You can get the vouchers for children under four (or for yourself if you are pregnant) if you are in receipt of certain benefits. Find further information about the vouchers here.
A maternity grant is a fixed amount of £500 to help people on a low income buy clothes and equipment for a new born baby. It does not have to be repaid. Usually, in order to qualify there must be no other children in your family and you must be in receipt of a relevant benefit.
You do not have to be the child’s parent to qualify for a grant as long as you have become responsible for the child within the last 3 months and they are aged under 12 months. You can qualify for a payment even if a grant has already been made to the child’s parent. However you cannot get a maternity grant for a child you are fostering.
Click here for further information about eligibility and how to apply.
From September 2014 all children in infant classes in England are eligible for free school meals. Older children, and children in Wales, are eligible if their parent or carer is in receipt of certain benefits. Click here for more information.
This means that the child you are raising may qualify for free school meals if their parent is in receipt of a relevant benefit, even if you as their carer don’t meet the necessary criteria. However, they will not usually be entitled to free school meals if you are being paid a fostering allowance for them.
You can find out how to apply for free school meals by contacting your local council or your child’s school.
Children may be able to get free transport to school, depending on how far the walk is and any special needs they have.
All children between 5 and 16 qualify for free school transport if they go to their nearest suitable school and live at least:
• 2 miles from the school if they’re under 8
• 3 miles from the school if they’re 8 or older
If you get maximum Working Tax Credit or the children are entitled to free school meals, they may qualify for free school transport to a school that’s at least 2 miles away even if there are other suitable schools nearer to home.
If there’s no safe walking route, children must be given free transport, however far from school they live.
Children are entitled to free transport if they can’t walk to school because of their Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND) or mobility problem. It doesn’t matter how far away they live.
Click here or contact your local council for further details.
Some local education authorities will help with the cost of school clothing for pupils whose families are on a low income. Local policies vary widely on who can get help and what items they will give help for. To find out what the policy is in your area click here or check with your local council. Some school governing bodies or parents associations also provide help with school clothing.
This fund provides help for education-related costs to 16 to 19 year olds who are in further education or training in England.
Under this scheme, some vulnerable students are eligible to receive a bursary of £1,200 a year. This group includes:
- people in care
- care leavers
- people claiming Income Support
- disabled young people who receive Employment Support Allowance and Disability Living Allowance
Other students facing financial difficulties may be awarded a bursary at the discretion of their school, college or training provider, who will set out details of how their scheme operates.
Students living in Wales may be eligible for an Education Maintenance Allowance instead of the 16-19 bursary.
Most NHS treatment is free. Where there are charges – such as for prescriptions and eye tests – children are generally exempt.
In addition, you and the other members of your family will automatically qualify for free prescriptions, dental treatment and sight tests and help towards the cost of glasses/lenses if you are in receipt of certain benefits.
If your income is low, but you don’t receive one of the qualifying benefits, you may still be able to get full or partial help with health costs under the NHS low income scheme. You will need to complete form HC1 which is available from benefit offices, NHS hospitals and some practitioners. You can also order a form here.
Click here for more information about help with health costs.
For winter 2016 to 2017, some people will be able to get £140 off their electricity bill through this scheme. This includes people with pre-pay or pay as you go meters.
You qualify for the discount if all of the following apply:
- your supplier is part of the scheme
- your name or your partner’s name is on the bill
- you are getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (as of 10th July 2016)
Some suppliers offer the discount to a broader group of people – those who are vulnerable or on a low income. Each supplier has its own rules about who else can get this help.
For more information about whether your supplier has a scheme, who it covers and how to apply, see the gov.uk website or contact your supplier.
In some areas, there are local furniture projects that provide good quality second hand furniture and safety-tested appliances free of charge for people on benefits or a low income.
Furniture projects are usually able to deliver to your home. You may have to pay something to cover delivery costs.
You may have to ask your local council, an advice centre or a community group to put your name forward. If you are already in contact with any organisations like this, ask them if they can put you in contact with a local project.
You can find a furniture project via the Furniture Re-use Network. Their website lists local furniture projects: www.frn.org.uk or you can phone them on: 0845 602 8003.
Financial assistance is often available from grant-giving organisations, depending on your particular background and circumstances. In some cases you can apply directly, but in others a referral is needed. Grandparents Plus can help by identifying and making applications to charitable trusts. Contact our advice service for more information.
Some of the charities we make applications to include:
Al Mizan Trust
This Trust supports vulnerable individuals and families living in poverty across the UK. It provides grants for a broad range of needs. You can apply directly to the Trust or applications can be made by a referral agency such as Grandparents Plus.
British Gas Energy Trust
This Trust awards grants to individuals and families to clear domestic fuel debts and other household debts. It also gives grants to purchase essential household items.
Telephone: 020 7828 7311
Buttle UK has a small grants programme which provides essential items such as beds, cookers and washing machines to families living in hardship. Applications to this programme must be made through a referral agency such as Grandparents Plus. Buttle UK also has an educational programme which aims to transform the lives of vulnerable children by funding places at schools with a safe and supportive environment.
Telephone: 01904 621115
The Family Fund is a registered charity which gives grants to families on low incomes with severely disabled or seriously ill children aged 17 and under. The Fund will consider any request, so you can ask for whatever you need most, for example, laundry equipment, driving lessons, computers or holidays. You can apply directly to the Family Fund – no referral is needed.
Family Holiday Association
Telephone: 020 3117 0650
The Family Holiday Association provides families on a low income with a break in a UK holiday park. Applications must be made through a referral agency such as Grandparents Plus.
Turn2Us is a web-based charity providing an online service to help people access information on all benefits and grants available in the UK.
The Directory of Social Change publishes A Guide to Grants for Individuals in Need. This is a practical guide to support available from over 2,000 trusts and charities. Your local library or Citizens Advice Bureau should have a copy of this guide.
Until April 2013, families living in difficult circumstances and on a low income could apply to the Social Fund for discretionary community care grants and crisis loans. These schemes were replaced by ‘local welfare assistance’ provided by English local authorities and the Scottish and Welsh Governments.
Unfortunately some schemes have subsequently closed. You can find out whether there is a scheme in your area, and details of eligibility and how to apply here. Contact our advice service if you would like help with making an application or are not sure if you meet the criteria.
Foodbanks operate in many areas and are run by charities. Non-perishable food is donated by local people and organisations. People who are struggling to feed themselves and their families can be referred to foodbanks by care professionals such as doctors, health visitors and social workers, or by advice agencies, job centres or via ‘local welfare assistance’ schemes (see above).