Making the Most Out of Your Money
In this video we talk to Maternity Alliance, a national charity that helps new parents make the most of their money.
Catrina Skepper: Having a baby is an exciting time in any woman's life, 0stopping work, having time to prepare for the birth, and having leave to bond with your baby is all part of the maternity package, but how many of us really know what our rights are with regard to funds available to parents who have just had a child. With me from the Maternity Alliance is Jenny North. Welcome Jenny.
Jenny North: Hi!
Catrina Skepper: Now what exactly is the Maternity Alliance? Are you a government body?
Jenny North: We are national charity actually. We have been around for about 25 years and we campaign for better rights for mothers and babies, particular the West off.
Catrina Skepper: Now particularly those rights have changed over the years. What now specifically do you get asked? What is the most commonly asked question for help?
Jenny North: Still people want to know how to work out, whether they are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay. We also get lot of queries from women who are having difficulties with their bosses who maybe unsympathetic when they fall pregnant.
Catrina Skepper: Now Statutory Maternity Pay is for people who are working, correct. Statutory Maternity Pay is people for who are in work at the moment, during their pregnancy?
Jenny North: Yes mainly. There are a few exceptions. If you were working up to your qualifying week which I will explain later, and then you stop work after that, you still receive Statutory Maternity Pay even if you are fired or may redundant or your contract ended.
Catrina Skepper: Right. So a woman has just discovered she is pregnant, does she approach her boss immediately? Does she ring you?
Jenny North: Well, she can ring us to find exactly what's going on and/or she can look at our website or I send them to one of our fact sheets, but she should write a letter to her boss around the 11 week of her pregnancy just to let him know that she is pregnant. After the qualifying week, you can then talk about when you will --
Catrina Skepper: What is the qualifying week?
Jenny North: The qualifying week, to work it out, you take your due day, and you go the Sunday before the baby is due or that day if your baby is due on Sunday and work out 15 Sundays before that, and that Sunday is going to be your qualifying week and that's the week that you have to be working to claim Statutory Maternity Pay.
Catrina Skepper: Right. So what are the differences between Statutory Maternity Pay? Is there no any other benefit that a woman can get from the government while she is pregnant?
Jenny North: No, there are. Statutory Maternity Pay isn't a benefit. It's what you get, because you are in work. There are other financial benefits you maybe getting, but most of the new ones, the ones you talked before will kick in once your baby is born.
Catrina Skepper: Okay. So the government is responsible for looking after your obviously if you are not employee, there are certain benefits which will come to you later. But as far as your employer is concerned, they are beholden even if you are on Sure Start time contract?
Jenny North: As long as you have been working in your qualifying week, you will get Statutory Maternity Pay and to be honest, the government pays back, I think, 90 percent of your Statutory Maternity Pay. They go back to the employer.
Catrina Skepper: Right. I was going to say, because one might feel quite guilty, if this is just a temporary position or something -- so she felt guilty to go for it.
Jenny North: Absolutely not.
Catrina Skepper: What other advice would you give to women to find out their rights during this time?
Jenny North: Talk to your midwife, because midwives or health business or GPs can actually trigger quite a few benefits for low-income women. Talk to friends mainly, friends who have babies.
Catrina Skepper: What do you mean by trigger?
Jenny North: So there are some benefits that your midwife will have to help you fill in the form for and she should know about all the benefits that you maybe entitled to such as the Sure Start Maternity Grant which is the very low-income women. However, the best person, I think, is to always talk to your friend who has already done this, because she will know when to buy the letter, when to go on maternity leave, how to get your pay, or that's very easy, it comes in a pay slip just like the normal pay.
Catrina Skepper: So women on very low-income you say have special rights?
Jenny North: There are few things that women on very low-income can get. One of them is Sure Start Maternity Grant which is £500 one-off payments which you can claim before your baby is born or up to three months afterwards and I must stress that if you don't claim after three months, you won't get it and so you need to talk to your midwife or health visitor or go to your Jobcentre Plus, and they will give you a form which they will have to fill in to say, when the baby is due or has been born, if the baby is already born. Then send it off and let's say if you are eligible and then you get the £500 payment which is spent as you choose.
Catrina Skepper: Yes. What is the low income threshold?
Jenny North: You will get that if you are income based Job Seeker's Allowance for income support or if you claim Child Tax Credit with more than £10.45 a week or £20 if you have got baby under one.
Catrina Skepper: What are you rights if you have been employed, but it so happens that you become pregnant and you are not working, but you have been working all up to that time?
Jenny North: Yes, there are some provisions for women in that situation. That's called the Maternity Allowance, and not to be confused with the Maternity Allowance. That is for women -- a variety of situations. If you are working, but you stopped before your qualifying week, if you are self-employed, if you have been working a few small low earning jobs, or if you don't earn enough to qualifying for Statutory Maternity Pay, and the maternity allowance, again, you will fill-in the form and your midwife will help you with that and you will then get Maternity Allowance is where £106 a week for 26 weeks.
Catrina Skepper: Right, during, obviously, your maternity?
Jenny North: Yes, just before you have a baby.
Catrina Skepper: Now what's then the transference to the post baby? What kind of rights do you then have? You haven't gone back to work; you have got, obviously, maternity leaves, what are your rights during that period of time?
Jenny North: Well, you have 52 weeks leaves if you qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay. 26 of those will paid, 26 unpaid. You are under no obligation to tell your boss when you are going back, if that's what you want to know. And certainly lots of women worry about that. In terms of new benefits you receive, child benefit is obviously the universal one, you get that regardless of your income levels, and it pays £17 a week for your first baby, and £11.40 for any subsequent children.
Catrina Skepper: Decreasing.
Jenny North: Yes, it decreases which I am not sure is a good idea really, but to get that all you do is go to your post office or your Jobcentre Plus or you can send it off, I think via the Inland Revenue website, and you will need your birth certificate for your child, but they will send it back to you. Then you can claim it monthly arrears or if you are in a low income, you can arrange have it paid a week and above.
Catrina Skepper: What happens then these other benefits that you hear about? Do you get any kind of help with housing, with baby food, with milk? What kind of extra help --?
Jenny North: There are housing and mortgage cost. They are not terribly different I think in most cases to benefits you may get if you have low income before your had your child, you may get help in your housing. There are a few quite obscure benefits that you can help with these things and again talk to the Inland Revenue, talk to your local Jobcentre Plus, talk to your midwife. With baby milk tokens, if you are on a low income, so that's Income Support, Job Seeker's Allowance or annual income of less than £13,000, you may get milk tokens, again via your midwife, she will help you to claim those.
You can claim them, I think, from the tenth week of your pregnancy and if your baby has already been born, you can then, if you are not breastfeeding, you can choose cheap formula milk.
Catrina Skepper: Yes, that's something that's quite difficult to distinguish, because obviously some women choose to breastfeed, but they might need the formula later on. Is there any kind of time limit? I mean you might be only switching to formula when your baby is one year old.
Jenny North: Yes, she can switch.
Catrina Skepper: Okay. What about other -- I mean I've always heard baby Bonds, but I am told that it's no longer the right term. What's changed and what are they?
Jenny North: Baby Bonds was the name they were given when they were being put through parliaments when people campaigning for them. They are now called the Child Trust Fund which I think is a great name. And every Baby Bond since September, 2002 gets £250 worth vouchers sent to them when they are born. If you are on a very low income, you will get £500 worth vouchers. Now these are to go into accounts and cannot be touched until the child is 18.
Catrina Skepper: What account do they go into?
Jenny North: I will come on to that. They go to account when you are 18. Your account has to be at 18, but you can add to it parents can add to it, all through these years.
Catrina Skepper: Can certain tax benefit attached to it?
Jenny North: Yes, like a pension. This is very like a pension in some ways. I am not sure if it's tax free, but there will be administrative charge taken out. You can put them in a very straightforward, almost like a cash account, if you want to or you can make it slightly more risky or high-yield when you look at it for a stakeholder account or you can put it in a share-linked account.
Catrina Skepper: And that's your individual choice?
Jenny North: That's your individual choice. And see what your local bank office, see what your Building Society office, but if they are not claims, they will be invested for your child anyway.
Catrina Skepper: So your child once turns 18, you might actually have a little windfall that he didn't know anything about.
Jenny North: Yes.
Catrina Skepper: It might be very little, but --
Jenny North: He would be very little by then. But if you fail to respond to letters, eventually that start writing to the child itself.
Catrina Skepper: So do those letters come automatically? Does that benefit come along -- you don't have to do anything, just talk to your midwife, fill in the forms --?
Jenny North: Any child can avail the child benefits which is in fact the all children, in fact all children really, all get a child tax --
Catrina Skepper: Anything else that you obviously would know about that's slightly obscure that one might not hear what is advertised by the government? Any other benefits?
Jenny North: Well, I mean Tax Credits are one. The name is very misleading, because you think it might be instituted with your child tax credits.
Catrina Skepper: Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credits --
Jenny North: Yes, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credits, what does that mean? Child Tax Credits can be paid -- nine out of ten families who actually got as well the tax credits although --
Catrina Skepper: Is that an income related?
Jenny North: It's income related. By the time it gets the high-end of scale, it's a very small amount obviously, but you don't have to be working to claim them. I think a lot of people don't know that. If you have a child and you qualify on the income levels which changes a lot. Then you may get some amount as the Child Tax Credit.
For Working Tax Credit, if you have a child, you can claim Working Tax credit. If you are over 16 and you work more than 16 hours a week and you qualify on the income levels of course. So those are two really useful benefits and to get those, Jobcentre Plus again or you can phone helpline which is 0845-300-3900.
Catrina Skepper: Say that one more time.
Jenny North: 0845-300-3900.
Catrina Skepper: You mentioned your website earlier one out. I just want to come back to that so it's incredibly detailed and very useful. I went to have a look before we spoke and I must say it's all beautifully presented there. Can we just give that? It's www.maternityalliance.org.uk and all of these information which Jenny is giving us now is obviously quite lot to take in all at once, but it is there. You helpline is also free. Is that right? Is that something --?
Jenny North: It is free, but I would advise people to go to the website first definitely to get the most up-to-date number and the most up-to-date times.
Catrina Skepper: You're membership funded, how does your organization run?
Jenny North: We do have some members, both individual and organizational, but we also raise money through government funding and trust funding.
Catrina Skepper: Does the government actually -- do you have close links to government people? Is that something --?
Jenny North: We do. We have close campaigning links and close policy links and I hope they live upon us.
Catrina Skepper: As a friend and ally?
Jenny North: Yes!
Catrina Skepper: Innovative perhaps firm with good ideas. What actually are you campaigning for the women? What do you think is still under-funded or where are women really lacking the help that they need with pregnancy and childbirth?
Jenny North: Well, very low-income women, I think there can still be troubled accessing health services. As you know, it can be postcode lottery, the care you receive. Many women don't know about antenatal classes, they may experience poor care sometimes, although in general of course, as natal care is very good in this country, but there are inequalities in access. We are also very keen to make sure the postnatal support is really strengthened and women who have had more than one baby may have noticed that they are getting less guarantee to get those two visits from the health visitor which we all assume we will go after birth and those visits I think can be very important.
Catrina Skepper: And you've mentioned the midwife, but I mean that's assuming that one has midwife that usually quite push for time and obviously filling in form takes time and perhaps certain mothers might feel shy of asking for that help.
Jenny North: Yeah, we have a massive midwife shortage in this country and we need to create more, but once you are in the post, I think they needed to be more educated about benefits, they need to know more about how they can help women with a whole package. It's not just about giving birth, it's about having a child with all of the things that come with that.
Catrina Skepper: You mentioned that one point that the 16 year old threshold, does that tend to be the rule with all these?
Jenny North: No. Any one who is under 16 cannot claim benefits on their main behalf. So it has to be claimed by their grandparents or if they were in care by, they wouldn't get benefits, but that been taken care of by the state until they turn 16.
Catrina Skepper: I think one of the things perhaps the most daunting is once you had a baby, the time that you have to attend just household chores is minimal. If you are on very low income and also if it is you are not working and your husband is on very low income what are the rights on the paternity side as well and fathers what kind of rights do they have if there are the only income that the family has?
Jenny North: Yes, we do not have paid paternity leaves. I don't think it's terribly adequate. It's two weeks which could taken up to around 56 days off to the birth of the baby and it's paid £106 per week or 90% of that whichever is lower.
So in actuality, many fathers who do want to take some time off around the birth of the child take paid leave, because it's not a job with income, but you may have noticed recently it's been stories in the press about possibly six months paternity leave, but they won't be paid, but it's a choice. Until it's paid, it won't be a real choice to be honest.
Catrina Skepper: Obviously. What would be your key advice to somebody who is pregnant for the first time obviously and undated with the information, but really aren't sure what their rights are, what they need to do?
Jenny North: First of all check with your company, because you maybe have been entitled Contractual Maternity Pay. Some women do get extra money from the employer. The employer wants to get the money women that are pregnant.
Catrina Skepper: To keep them, presumably.
Jenny North: Yes, to keep them, exactly. Although, I think only a third of women get Contractual Maternity Pay or maybe less. So do check your contracts, check the contracts and talk to HR if you have an HR department, but if you are so confused and you may well be, log on to our website.
Catrina Skepper: And for somebody who isn't employed or self-employed?
Jenny North: Visit your Jobcentre Plus and talk to your midwife or GP.
Catrina Skepper: Okay, wonderful. Jenny you have been, I think, a mountain of information here for us.
Jenny North: Too much.
Catrina Skepper: That will be fun, we know that your website is incredibly detailed and helpful and obviously as long women know who to turn to, that's better than nothing. Thank you very for coming and joining us.
Jenny North: Thank you!
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