Benefit Changes – April 2017

Bad news… and good news

What with housing and travel and childcare costs, times are tough for a lot of people. The bad news is that they’re going to get harder for some families.

Working-age benefits have been frozen, so they’re not going up this year. Meanwhile, Child Tax Credit is being cut for new claimants and for people having a third child after 6 April.

If you have more than two children from now on, you won’t be paid any extra except in a few circumstances (e.g. twins, you’re adopting, or the child is born as a result of rape). And if you’re putting in a new claim, you’ll start at a lower rate because the ‘family element’ has been abolished. Existing claims won’t be affected.

But there is some good news for working parents!

From this September, the 15 hours’ free childcare for 3 and 4 year-olds for 38 weeks a year is being doubled to 30 hours.

If you’re a single parent, you need to be working at least the equivalent of 16 hours at the minimum ‘living’ wage. If you’re in a couple, both of you need to be doing that 16 hours minimum. Your child must be aged 3 or 4 when the scheme starts. There’s information on the Essex County Council website under ‘Free early learning and childcare’.

We’re doing all we can at Citizens Advice to help people claim all their entitlements and cope with tight finances. If you need advice, do come to us.

You can access our service, together with over 100 other local health and wellbeing services, on or download the ‘Frontline Public’ app.  Or call us on 01799 618840, Monday to Friday, between 9.30-3.30 to make an appointment.