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Child Benefit Explained

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 28 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Child Benefit Explained

Every child in the UK is entitled to receive tax-free child benefit from the government, even if their parents are multi-billionaires pulling in millions every month. Child benefit payments are usually paid monthly, although single parents and those on Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or Income Support can have their payments made weekly, if desired.

Who Qualifies, and How Much?

Child benefit is an entitlement for every child, and is therefore paid to every child under age 16 regardless of income. Children over 16 can receive it if they are in relevant training or education, or if they are aged 16 or 17 and registered for work or training with specific bodies, and have left education. You can also claim child benefit for children who do not live with you if you are responsible for their upkeep.

The amount of child benefit varies depending on how many children you have. The first child in a family receives, at the moment, £20.30 per week, while subsequent children get £13.40 per week. It can be paid directly into a bank account, building society account, or National Savings and Investment account which accepts direct payment.

From April 2009, according to the latest budget, expectant mums will also be eligible to receive child benefit from their 29th week of pregnancy. You do not have to be a UK citizen to get child benefit allowance.

History of Child Benefit

Child benefit is an entitlement intended for every child, regardless of how much money their parents earn or whether they have millions in the bank collecting interest. It was started in 1946 as a “family allowance”, and was renamed child benefit in 1977.

One reason for the introduction of child benefit was to redistribute resources within family units by paying money directly to mums. Another reason was that it was deemed more fair than giving child tax allowances, which were based on family income.

How to Apply

Applying for child benefit is easy. You can either do it online or ask for an application from Inland Revenue's Child Benefit Office. When you do apply, you will need your child's or children's birth certificates, your national insurance number and your bank or building society details.

You should apply for child benefit as soon as a child is born, as soon as you adopt a child, one comes to live with you or you start contributing to the upkeep of a child. If your situation is not entirely clear, contact the Child Benefit office for advice.

You will need to let the relevant authorities know if your circumstances change in any way, meaning that if you have another child, one turns 16 or you start contributing to another child's upbringing and nobody else is claiming child benefit for them. Additionally, you will have to let them know if a child stops living at home or is age 16 – 18 and has left full-time education earlier than you anticipated.

Child benefit is intended to help all children, regardless of circumstance. However, be aware that if you get child benefit it could count as part of your income, which means that other means-tested benefits you get such as Income Support or Housing Benefit may be reduced.

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