One of the perks of being a UK citizen are the various - although not always the most generous - benefits and income supports that families can receive should they need it. From assisting with free school meals and maternity leave, to support for separated families and disabled children, the UK government has a safety net available for almost all situations.

Child Benefit is one of the many ways the UK government aids families with young children. They do this by paying you per child in order to help with costs associated with child care, and the good news is that anyone who qualifies can get Child Benefit.

Although the process to claim Child Benefit is a simple procedure, due to it being one of many means-tested benefits, you must satisfy certain requirements in order to be able to claim.

Therefore, in this article, we will explore all things Child Benefit related such as what it is, how to assess if you are eligible, and how to claim it. Let's dive right in.

Child benefit is a payment that a parent or carer, who is responsible for the upbringing of a child, can claim. This includes children that are in foster care or adopted. It is usually paid every four weeks, although in some cases a weekly payment can be arranged.

If you earn less than £50,000 per year then this payment is completely tax-free, but regardless of your income or savings, anyone who qualifies can claim Child Benefit. There are separate rates for each child, therefore the amount you get can depend on how many children you have.

Is everybody entitled to get Child Benefit?

You can claim Child Benefit if you are responsible for a child or a qualifying young person, as shown below. You don’t have to be the parent or a stay-at-home carer with the child to be qualified, but the child you are responsible for must satisfy one of the following criteria:

It is important to note that only one person can claim Child Benefit for a child.

By claiming Child Benefit, you can also get National Insurance credits which will contribute towards your State Pension, and your child will automatically get a National Insurance number at the age of 16.

What if I am looking after someone else’s child?

You may be eligible for Child Benefit if you have an informal agreement to look after a relative or friend’s child. However, if the local council is paying towards the child’s accommodation or maintenance, then you will not qualify.

You may be eligible for Guardian’s Allowance if the child you are responsible for has lost one or both of their parents. Guardian’s Allowance rate is £18 per week, and it is a tax-free addition to Child Benefit.

What if I have separated from my partner?

When separated, you are both still responsible for the child, but two people cannot get Child Benefit for the same young person. Typically, the person whom the child lives with most will receive the payment. If you wish to make a claim, this must be agreed with the person who is currently claiming for the child, but if the two of you cannot reach an agreement, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will make the decision.

How much Child Benefit will I get?

Child Benefit is paid at two different rates. For the eldest child, Child Benefit is paid at £21.15 per week. For each additional child, you will receive £14.00 per week.

As mentioned earlier, the Child Benefit payments will be tax-free if you or your partner’s individual income is less than £50,000 per year. However, if either you or your partner earn over £50,000, then your Child Benefit will be reduced via a tax known as the High Income Child Benefit Tax Charge.

What is the High Income Child Benefit Tax Charge?

If either of your individual income is higher than £50,000 per year and one of you is entitled to receive Child Benefit, you may be affected by the High Income Child Benefit Tax Charge.

This tax charge applies to you if you satisfy any of the following conditions:

  • Earn over £50,000 and are entitled to Child Benefit
  • Someone else is entitled to Child Benefit for a child that lives with you, and they provide at least an equal amount towards the child’s care

It does not matter if the child that’s living with you is not your own.

Who pays the High Income Child Benefit Tax Charge, and what if I don’t want to?

The person with the higher income will be responsible for paying the tax charge if both you and your partner’s individual income is above £50,000.

If you do not want to pay the tax charge, then you can simply ‘opt out’ of receiving Child Benefit payments. This will mean you won't have to pay the tax charge, but it will also mean that you will no longer receive child benefit payments.

How and when will I get paid?

Child Benefit payments are usually paid every 4 weeks on a Monday or Tuesday. If you are a single parent or if you or your partner are getting certain benefits such as Income Support, you can get paid weekly instead.

Your first payment may be backdated for 12 weeks - even longer if you have just moved to the UK - therefore it is always best to check your award notice which will detail your first payment date.

Since only one person can claim Child Benefit for a child, the payments can only be made into one account, and you have the option of choosing which bank account you'd like the money to be paid into. Just as long as it's not a Nationwide CashBuilder account that's under someone else's name, all other bank accounts will work.

How can I claim Child Benefit for the first time?

Child Benefit can be claimed as soon as you have registered the birth of the child, or they have come to live with you. It can take up to 16 weeks to process a new Child Benefit claim though, and even longer if you are new to the UK.

Since only one person can be eligible to get Child Benefit, you will need to decide whether it is better for you or your partner to claim. It is worth noting that if the person claiming is not working, or earns less than £184 per week, they will get National Insurance credits which will contribute to their State Pension.

How can I make a claim for the first time?

If you are making a claim for the first time, you are required to fill in the Child Benefit claim form CH2 and send this to the Child Benefit Office, outlined below. If you have been unable to get an appointment with the office before your child is 3 months old, then this form can be completed before registering the child’s birth.

If your child is adopted, you are required to send the original adoption certificate with the form. A new adoption certificate can be ordered if you have lost the original. If you wish to send the claim form in advance, and then send the certificate once you have received it, you can do so.

Child Benefit Office:
HM Revenue and Customs - Child Benefit Office
PO Box 1
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE88 1AA
United Kingdom

What if my child’s birth was registered outside the UK?

In addition to the claim form, you will need to include your child’s:

  • Original birth certificate
  • Passport or travel document used to enter the country

If you have lost the original, a new birth certificate can be ordered.

How do I add a child to the claim?

You can call the Child Benefit helpline if all the following criteria are met:

  • Your child lives with you and is less than 6 months old
  • Your child was born in the UK
  • Your child’s birth was registered in England, Wales, or Scotland more than 24 hours ago
  • You are a UK or Irish national who has lived in the UK since the start of the claim.

During your call, you will need the following information:

  • National Insurance number
  • Child’s birth certificate (if it has been registered)

You can contact the Child Benefit helpline (Mon-Fri 8am to 6pm) using the following numbers:

  • Telephone: 0300 200 3100
  • Welsh language: 0300 200 1900
  • Outside UK: +44 161 210 3086

If you do not meet the criteria to add your child by phone, then you must make a new claim by post. To do this, you can fill in the Child Benefit form CH2 and send the form to the Child Benefit Office. If you are claiming for more than two children, you must include the ‘additional children’ form.

What if I need to make a change to my claim?

You must report circumstance changes to the Child Benefit Office. These can include changes to:

  • Family life, e.g. marriage
  • Child’s life, e.g. leaving training or education

If you want someone else to claim Child Benefit, such as your spouse or partner, you must contact the Child Benefit Office. Once this has been done, the other person must make a new claim.

How do I challenge a Child Benefit decision?

If you disagree with a decision made on your Child Benefit claim, you can ask HMRC to re-assess your claim - called a ‘Mandatory Reconsideration’. However, if you still think the decision is wrong after the reconsideration, you can raise an appeal to an independent tribunal.

You will be given a period of four weeks to dispute a decision, therefore it’s crucial that you seek advice and act promptly.

Summary

Child Benefit is a payment that a parent or carer can claim for a child's upbringing. Due to the many rules and stipulations involved in the process of claiming Child Benefit, it can seem like an intimidating task.

However, as we've covered, provided that you are responsible for the child - and nobody else is claiming child benefit for the young person - you should be eligible to claim Child Benefit using the steps outlined in this article.