The Social Services in Great Britain provide certain benefits for a woman during her pregnancy. These may be broadly classified as:
The rules and regulations governing these benefits are continually changing, especially the financial benefits which are seldom constant for more than a year at a time.
The maternity benefits as set out in this chapter are those in force at the time of writing and will almost certainly have been changed by the time you come to read it. For up-to-date information you should write to the Department of Health and Social Security or enquire at your local post office or local Social Security Office for the appropriate pamphlets dealing with free welfare foods and maternity benefits.
There are two maternity benefits—maternity grant and maternity allowance. Both benefits may be paid for a confinement provided all the appropriate conditions are satisfied. Almost all mothers are able to qualify for the maternity grant of £25, because the contribution conditions are not difficult to satisfy and the grant can be awarded on either the mother’s or her husband’s insurance. Maternity allowance is only for women who have been working and paying insurance contributions at the full rate. It is a weekly sum paid for a number of weeks before and after the baby is born. Both married and single women can claim.
How to Claim
The form to use for claiming is BM4. You can get a copy from your local Social Security Office, from a maternity or child welfare clinic or from the antenatal clinic. Full instructions are given on the form about when you should send it to the department’s local office and what to send with it. One thing which you are asked to send with your claim is a pregnancy certificate from a midwife, doctor or the antenatal clinic. This is form Mat B1 if you claim before confinement or Mat B2 if you claim after confinement. You can send the baby’s birth certificate instead of the Mat B2.
1 can be paid if you have worked and paid full contributions for the test period which is at least 26 weeks, or exceeded a set lower limit of contributions;
2 can be paid at £14.70 a week but is less if you have hot got 50 contributions paid or credited in the test period;
3 is normally paid for the 18 weeks starting with the 11th week before the week in which the baby is expected;
4 is not payable for any days or weeks of paid work;
5 should be claimed not earlier than the 14th and not later than the 11th week before the week in which the baby is expected;
6 may be increased by allowances for dependants;
7 in certain circumstances may be paid together with some sickness benefit.
(A week means a week beginning on a Monday.)
1 is a lump sum payment of £25;
2 may be claimed at any time from 9 weeks before the week in which your baby is expected, to 3 months after the birth of your baby;
3 is paid if you or your husband satisfy the contribution conditions for it, or if you satisfy the contribution conditions for maternity allowance;
4 is paid for a stillbirth if pregnancy lasted at least 28 weeks;
5 can be paid for each baby born at a confinement provided each survives (there is an additional maternity grant where more than one child is born).
The Contribution Tests for Maternity Grant
If you do not qualify for maternity allowance you or your husband must satisfy both of these two contribution tests in order to obtain a maternity grant:
1 You or your husband must have paid 26 flat-rate national insurance contributions before the week in which you expect your baby or before the day on which it is born.
2 You or your husband must have at least 26 flat-rate insurance contributions paid or credited in the test year. This year depends on
(a) the letter at the end of your national insurance number, or your husband’s if you claim on his insurance, and
(b) the week in which you expect your baby, or if you claim after your baby is born the date on which it is born.
1 You cannot receive maternity grant both on your own and on your husband’s insurance for the same confinement.
2 A single woman can claim only on her own insurance.
3 If one or both of the tests are not satisfied, outstanding contributions for weeks in the test period will still count if they are paid within 3 months after the date of confinement.
4 Special tests apply to a widow claiming on her late husband’s insurance and to a woman claiming on her husband’s insurance if he is over 65. If you wish to know more about these special tests you should ask your local Social Security Office about them.
When to Claim the Benefits
Maternity allowance should be claimed as soon as possible after the beginning of the 14th week before you expect your baby. It is best to do this even though you may still be working. If you claim later than the 11th week before the week in which your confinement is expected you may lose benefit because the allowance will not normally be paid for any week earlier than the one in which you claim.
If you claim maternity allowance within the 3 weeks following your confinement you will normally be able to receive the allowance for only 7 weeks, beginning with the week in which the confinement occurred. If you claim more than 3 weeks after your confinement the allowance will ordinarily be payable only from the week in which you claim and payment will normally end at the 7th week after your confinement. It is therefore in your own interests to claim as early as permissible before your confinement; in this way you will make sure that you do not forfeit any benefit by delaying your claim.
If, however, you have not claimed before confinement and think you have a good reason for not having done so, you should give the reason when you make a claim.
If your confinement was earlier than expected you should ask your midwife or doctor to state this on the certificate of confinement together with the expected date. Subject to a maximum of 18 weeks payment, the allowance may then be paid up to 6 weeks after the expected week of confinement. If your confinement is more than
11 weeks earlier than expected your maternity allowance may be paid for 18 weeks starting with the week of confinement.
If your baby is born later than the week in which it is expected, the allowance will be continued until 6 weeks after the week in which the baby is born, provided you inform the local Social Security Office promptly. You will normally lose the right to the extension of the allowance unless you do so.
1 If your confinement occurs before the date of the last order in your maternity allowance order book, tell the local office the date of your confinement as soon as possible and in any event not more than 6 weeks after it occurs.
2 If your confinement has not taken place by the date of the last order in your book, tell the local office as soon as possible, and in any event within the next 6 weeks, that you are still expecting your baby.
Maternity grant should be claimed at any time between the beginning of the 9th week before you expect your baby and 3 months after your baby is born. If you claim later than 3 months after your confinement you will not get the grant unless you have a good reason for having delayed. If you claim more than 12 months after your confinement a grant cannot be paid at all.
If you send in your claim for maternity grant more than 9 weeks before the expected date of your confinement because you are claiming maternity allowance, your maternity allowance claim will be settled and the local office will send you a simple form on which to claim maternity grant at the proper time.
How the Benefits are Paid
Maternity allowance is normally paid by means of a book containing orders which can be cashed weekly at a preselected post office. Each order is dated but can be cashed within a period of 3 months from the date printed on it. If an order is not cashed within 3 months a fresh one must be applied for; if you leave an order uncashed for 12 months or more it can neither be cashed nor usually be replaced.
Maternity grant is paid by a Giro order which can be cashed at any post office up to 3 months from the date on which it is issued. If you fail to cash it within 3 months you must return it and apply for a replacement; if you leave an order uncashed for 12 months or more it can neither be cashed nor usually be replaced.
Additional Maternity Grant or Grants where more than One Child is Born
Where more than one baby is born at a confinement a maternity grant may be paid for each baby who is living 12 hours after birth. For example, if twins are born and both live for more than 12 hours, two grants of £25 will be paid.
Other Benefits and their Effect on the Payment of Maternity Benefits
You can receive a maternity grant at the same time as any other benefits (such as sickness or unemployment) to which you are entitled. You cannot usually be paid maternity allowance if you are already receiving an equal or higher rate of benefit from another source. For details you should apply to the office at which you make your claim.
Increase of Maternity Allowance for Dependants
In certain circumstances the allowance can be increased for dependants such as other children but if you are residing with your husband you cannot get an increase unless he is incapable of self-support.
Disqualifications for Maternity Allowance
If you qualify for maternity allowance you will normally be sent an order book. In the instructions at the end of this book there are rules which you should read carefully and follow. You should particularly note that you are not allowed to draw the allowance for any week in which you do any paid work for an employer or are self-employed.
If before the end of the period covered by your order book you:
1 resume work or claim unemployment benefit, or
2 leave Great Britain (or Northern Ireland or the Isle of Man) for some other country, other than for the purpose of obtaining medical treatment, or
3 are imprisoned or detained in legal custody, or
no more orders should be cashed and the order book must immediately be returned with a note of the circumstances to the Social Security Office which issued it.
Free milk and welfare foods are available to pregnant women and their children under certain circumstances. You should enquire about this at the child welfare or maternity clinic.
Half a litre of free milk per day is available for:
1 an expectant mother and all children under school age in families that are in receipt of supplementary benefits, family income supplement, or in special need because of low income;
2 an expectant mother who already has two children under school age regardless of the family income;
3 all but the first two children under school age in families with three or more children under school age regardless of family income;
4 handicapped children aged 5 to 16 who are not attending an educational establishment.
Children attending a registered day nursery or play group get 200 ml. free each day that they attend.
For details as to how you may qualify on income grounds or to obtain a form to claim free milk, you should contact the Department of Social Security or ask at your local post office or Social Security Office.
Anyone whose family includes an expectant or nursing mother or children under school age and whose total family income does not exceed a certain level will be entitled to free tokens for welfare foods as well as milk.
During your pregnancy you are entitled to free dental care and exemption from prescription charges. When you visit your own doctor or attend the hospital booking clinic you will be given a signed form which you should complete and send to your local Executive Council whose address is on your medical card. Use the form which will be returned to you to claim these exemptions and milk token books.
You may also be entitled to free glasses, dentures and dental treatment. You should ask your optician or dentist about this and they can give you the appropriate claim form to send to your local Social Security Office.
What the Benefits are and How and When to Claim Them
If you do not claim at the right time you may lose benefit
A lump sum is payable. Additional grants may be paid if more than one child is born.
Who can claim
All mothers. To help with the general expense of having a baby.
On whose insurance
Either the mother’s or father’s insurance.
How to claim
On Form BM4 obtainable from any Social Security Office or from the maternity or child welfare clinic.
When to claim
Between 9 weeks before the baby is expected and 3 months after he is born.
A standard rate per week is normally paid for 18 weeks beginning 11 weeks before the expected week of confinement, but not for any time when paid work is done. (The allowance may be paid at a reduced rate if the contribution conditions are only partially satisfied.)
Who can claim
Mothers who are, or have been, doing paid work and paying full insurance contributions. To make it easier, in the interests of mother and baby, to give up work in good time before the birth.
On whose insurance
Paid only on mother’s insurance.
How to claim
As for maternity grant. All questions in the section of Form BM4 headed ‘To be completed only if you are claiming Maternity Allowance’ should be answered.
When to claim
Between the 14th and 11th weeks before the baby is expected even if the mother continues working after the 14th week.