Tax increases, inflation and soaring energy prices have led to a cost of living crisis in the UK. This has left thousands of people worrying about how they’re going to pay for basic living expenses like food, fuel and heating.
To help families who don’t have enough money to live on, the government provides support in the form of grants, schemes and funds. The Energy Bill Support Scheme, for example, gives households a one-off payment of up to £550 to put towards their energy bills, while the Household Support Fund provides financial help to people who can’t afford to buy essentials like food and clothing. Then there are benefits like Universal Credit and Child Benefit, which many families rely on to make ends meet.
But what do you do when your benefits are unexpectedly reduced or even stopped altogether? Earlier this year, thousands of parents were alarmed when they received less Child Benefit than usual, with no idea why that was.
There are a few reasons why your Child Benefit payments may have been reduced. In this article, we explain what these are and advise on what you can do about them. In some cases, you may even get the money back. So don’t despair just yet.
There are several reasons why your Child Benefit may have been reduced, some of which are: There’s been a change in your circumstances, you’ve started receiving other benefits, your payment date has fallen on a bank holiday, or you haven’t updated your details on time.
If your Child Benefit payment has gone down or you are no longer entitled to it, you may be able to claim alternative tax breaks and family benefits, such as 30 hours of free childcare per week or the Tax-Free Childcare allowance.
Five things that can affect your Child Benefit
If your Child Benefit has been reduced or stopped, you may be wondering why this is. Below, we’ve listed five possible reasons and advised on whether there’s anything you might be able to do about it.
1. Your circumstances have changed
You must inform HMRC of any changes to your circumstances as soon as possible, as this can affect how much Child Benefit you are entitled to. Some changes could mean you get more money. However, the following changes in circumstance will result in reduced or no Child Benefit:
- You or your partner starts earning more than £50,000 — You will start paying a Child Benefit tax charge. If you earn more than £60,000, this tax will cancel out what you get in Child Benefit.
- You separate or divorce from your partner — Only one of you will receive Child Benefit, which will usually be the person the child lives with.
- Your living arrangements have changed — Moving house won’t affect your Child Benefit if the child still lives with you. If you go abroad, you will still get Child Benefit for the first eight weeks you are away (or 12 weeks if you are having medical treatment) as long as you still live in the UK and aren’t abroad for more than a year.
- Your immigration status has changed — If you are from the EU, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland or Liechtenstein and lose your ‘right to reside’, your Child Benefit will stop. If you are not from the EU, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland or Liechtenstein and your immigration status changes, your Child Benefit could be affected. However, your partner may still be able to claim.
2. Your child’s circumstances have changed
Again, you must inform HMRC of any changes to your child’s circumstances. The following instances might affect your entitlement to Child Benefit:
- Your child has turned 16 or 20 if they are in education or training
- Your child is aged 16 to 20 and leaves education or training
- Your child is over 16 and starts working more than 24 hours per week
- Your child gets married or forms a civil partnership
- Your child goes missing or dies
- Your child lives away from you for more than eight weeks in a row
- Your child moves in with their partner on a permanent basis
- Your child leaves the country for more than 12 weeks, unless it is part of school education or to get medical treatment
- Your child goes to prison for more than eight weeks
3. You’ve started receiving other benefits
Your Child Benefit might be reduced or stop altogether if you start receiving payments from your local council or someone else who is looking after the child.
Note that if you are receiving other benefits, you may receive less Child Benefit due to the benefit cap.
If your child starts receiving other benefits, such as Employment and Support Allowance, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, tax credits and Universal Credit, your Child Benefit will stop.
4. There’s been a bank holiday
Usually, Child Benefit is paid every four weeks on either a Monday or a Tuesday (or you can get your money paid weekly if you are a single parent or you’re receiving other benefits like Income Support). However, bank holidays can affect your payment date.
If your payment date falls on a bank holiday, HMRC will make a partial — or full — payment earlier than usual. If you do get a partial payment, HMRC assures you will still receive the full payment by the expected date.
Here are the bank holiday payment dates for the Christmas and New Year period:
|Due date||Payment date|
|Monday 26th December 2022||Friday 23rd December 2022|
|Tuesday 27th December 2022||Friday 23rd December 2022|
|Monday 2nd January 2023||Friday 30th December 2022|
5. You haven’t updated your details on time
Your Child Benefit will stop automatically on the 31st August after the child turns 16 — unless you let HMRC know that your child is continuing in full-time education or training or they are joining the armed forces or a government-sponsored careers programme.
If your child leaves education or training to join the armed forces or a government-sponsored careers programme, you must let HMRC know this in writing within three months to continue receiving Child Benefit for a further 20 weeks from their education or training end.
If your child stays in education or training but then decides to leave, you will continue to get Child Benefit until whichever date after their 16th birthday comes first:
- The last day in February
- 31st May
- 31st August
- 30th November
If you fail to update your details in time, you may still be able to claim Child Benefit, but your payments might be late.
Your payments might have also been reduced or stopped because you’ve changed your bank account and have forgotten to let HMRC know. Usually, they will restart your payments after you’ve informed them of this oversight.
If you are no longer eligible for Child Benefit, or your payments have been significantly reduced, you may be entitled to other family allowances, such as:
30 hours of free childcare
If you are employed and have children aged three and four, you may be eligible for 30 hours of free childcare under this scheme.
If you are eligible, you can get 30 hours of free childcare for 38 weeks of the year, which can be stretched to 52 weeks if you only need 22 hours of childcare per week.
Tax-Free Childcare allowance
If you have a child under 11 years old, you could be entitled to tax-free childcare. If so, you can get up to £500 every three months towards your childcare costs. This figure is increased to £1,000 every three months if your child is disabled.
Child Benefit is a regular payment that’s made to parents or carers with children under 16 years old — or 20 if they stay in full-time non-advanced education or approved training. It can be extended for 20 weeks to parents or carers of children who are 16 or 17 years old and have left education or training to join the armed forces or a government-sponsored careers programme. HMRC makes the payments either weekly or every four weeks directly into parents’ bank accounts on a Monday or a Tuesday.
However, your Child Benefit payments may have been reduced or stopped altogether. There are a few reasons why this could be:
- There’s been a change in your circumstances
- There’s been a change in your child’s circumstances
- You or your child has started receiving other benefits
- Your payment date has fallen on a bank holiday
- You haven’t updated your details on time
If you are no longer eligible for Child Benefit, or your payments have been significantly reduced, you may be entitled to other family allowances like 30 hours of free childcare or the Tax-Free Childcare allowance.