All the help single parents can get worth THOUSANDS to cope with soaring energy bills and more | The Sun

SOARING costs mean it is harder than ever to pay the bills, and single parents may find it more difficult than most – but there is help available.

Analysis by Labour, using figures from the Office for National Statistics, found that single-parent households are particularly exposed to the cost of living crisis.

These households have an average savings pot of just £400 compared to a national average of £8,000.

Sarah Coles,senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "Our research shows single parents are struggling in every area of their finances – from having enough emergency savings to having cash left over at the end of the month or saving for a pension."

But she urged people to find out what help is available to them.

"It’s easy to feel like you’re completely on your own, but there is some help out there, so it’s well worth exploring what you can get," she said.

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Here are some funds you could access:

Universal Credit

"Universal Credit can be difficult to get your head around and complicated to apply for.

"As a result, Entitledto calculated that there’s £9.53 billion in Universal Credit going unclaimed," Sarah said.

But there is help available from charities like Gingerbread and Citizens Advice if you need to apply, so don’t be afraid to ask.

If you are out of work, working (including self-employed or part time), or unable to work, for example because of a health condition, you may qualify.

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Help with energy bills worth up to £2,800 if you’re on Universal Credit

Entitledto also has a benefits calculator which could help you work out what you are owed.

Being on Universal Credit will also mean you can get free prescriptions, and cold weather payments if you have a child under five, potentially saving you hundreds over the winter.

Cold weather payments are £25 for each seven day period of very cold weather between November 1 and March 31.

Council tax discount

If you’re the only adult living in your home, you can get a council tax discount.

This won’t be done automatically – you need to apply to the council – but it’s worth it because you’ll shave 25% off your bill.

This also applies if there is one adult and one student living together in a property, or if there is one adult and one person classed as severely mentally impaired in the home.

Sarah said: "Right now there’s an estimated £2.7 billion in council tax discounts unclaimed."

A full list of circumstances that exempt you from paying council tax can be found on Citizens Advice.

Tax-free childcare

Tax-free childcare allows eligible working families to claim 20% of their childcare costs, up to £2,000 per child per year or £4,000 for a child with a disability, from the government.

"Only half of parents with a tax-free childcare account are using it, and fewer than 400,000 of the 1.3 million eligible families are taking advantage," Sarah said.

If you are a single parent you can apply for tax-free childcare provided you meet the eligibility requirements.

Only one account can be set up per child so if parents are separated, and both want to contribute to childcare costs, this can be done through one account managed by the main carer.

To get tax-free childcare, you’ll need to set up an online childcare account.

Free childcare for two and three-year-olds

Depending on the age of your child and your own circumstances, you could get free help.

The government has a scheme for parents to access childcare if their children are two-years old or younger.

You may have to pay for extra costs like meals, nappies or trips, but the care itself is free.

Eligibility applies, and you can check the full list of criteria on the government's website.

If your child is three or four-years old, you could still be eligible for 30 hours' free help from an approved provider every term time week funded by the government.

This is for 38 weeks a year, but parents can choose to take fewer hours to spread the support over more weeks.

You can start your application here.

Bereavement support payment

You may be able to get a Bereavement Support Payment if your husband, wife or civil partner died in the last 21 months.

You must claim within three months of your partner’s death to get the full amount.

But you can claim up to 21 months after their death – although you’ll get fewer monthly payments.

You’ll get an initial lump sum and then up to 18 monthly payments.

There are two rates: a higher rate which pays out £3,500 and then £350 monthly, and a lower rate which is £2,500 and then £100 monthly.

If you get Child Benefit (or if you do not get it but are entitled to it), you’ll get the higher rate.

Child maintenance

A child has a legal right to be supported financially by both their parents and this is done through child maintenance (sometimes referred to as ‘child support’).

If you mostly care for your child, you might be eligible.

You can work out how much you might be able to receive using the government's online calculator.

The amount paid depends on the other parent's income, and how much they care for the child or children.

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This money helps with the costs of raising a child – from the day-to-day expenses of food, clothing and school, to the costs of running a child’s main home and giving a child a decent quality of life.

Child maintenance arrangements can take different forms – they can be made privately, between separated parents, through the government-run Child Maintenance Service or (more rarely), through a court order.

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