Universal Credit freebies worth £3,286 people could be missing out on

Parents are in a constant struggle of balancing the books and keeping their children happy and content.

Fortunately, those claiming a variety of benefits, including Universal Credit, Income Support, and Child Tax Credit, could claim some free perks and payments to help make their budgeting a lot easier. Many parents may be unaware that claiming benefits opens up a world of extra support beyond their weekly or monthly payments.

This can include financial support to help provide a healthy and nutritional diet for your children, free childcare so you can continue working, and free meals for your child at school.

Read more: Martin Lewis confirms HMRC's £50 compensation payments for 577,000 parents

Here's a breakdown of all the extra support you could get as a parent claiming benefits...

Free childcare

If you claim Universal Credit as a parent, you're eligible for extra help with your childcare costs. Currently, you can claim 85 per cent of your childcare expenses per month up to £1,014 for one child and £1,739 for two more children.

Fortunately, changes to the rules in June mean that the childcare cost support is paid upfront, instead of claimed back after you have already forked out the cash.

Up to £442 worth of free food per year

Parents who have just had their child, or are very close to having their child, can claim up to £442 worth of free food each year via the Healthy Start Scheme. In order to be eligible for the scheme, a claimant must be either more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under the age of four.

Parents must also be claiming one of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit with less than £408 a month of total income

  • Pension Credit

  • Income Support

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Child Tax Credit alongside a family income of £16,190 or less a year

However, parents under the age of 18 can apply for the scheme even if they are not claiming any benefits.

Once you qualify for the scheme, you will receive a card that can be used at a variety of supermarkets and shops. However, the card can only be used to buy certain products, such as vegetables, fruit, and milk.

Grant worth £500

Parents can claim up to £500 as a one-off payment via the Sure Start Maternity Grant. In order to qualify, you must be expecting your first child (or children if it's twins or more).

The grant can be claimed in an 11-week window prior to the baby's due date. Otherwise, it can be claimed up to six months after the baby is born.

Household Support Fund support

The Household Support Fund is a government scheme that allocates money to councils to help locals with the cost of living. As part of the support, some councils may choose to provide vouchers to help parents pay for things such as food or energy bills.

However, it is up to each individual council to decide what they do with the fund and who qualifies for the support. As a result you should contact your local council and ask them about the Household Support Fund to see if you qualify for extra support as a parent on benefits.

Free School Meals

Parents claiming benefits can help their children have a meal at school for free. While this is automatically provided in years one and two, anytime after a parent must be claiming one of the following:

  • Income Support

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • The guaranteed element of Pension Credit

  • Child Tax Credit

  • Working Tax Credit

  • Universal Credit

The level of support provided through the free school meals scheme may vary depending on your council, school, or area. To see what level of support you can receive through this scheme, simply enter your postcode into the government website here.