There's a whole bunch of freebie stuff out there to help mum's when they're pregnant and when the baby is born. Some of it doesn't amount to too much, but every little bit helps. Especially if you're on a low income, have found yourself redundant or are going to find it tough to make ends meet even on maternity pay.
Free For All
All mums can get free prescriptions and free dental care. This later was a huge lifesaver for me, as our budget was incredibly tight. And when my son was only a couple of months old I got an abscess in my tooth and had to have root canal surgery. I can't imagine how we'd have afforded that if it hadn't been for the free dental care.
Your entitlement lasts from when you're pregnant until the baby is 12 months old. Make sure you've signed up for this as soon as you've had your doctor's visit. Ask your doctor or midwife for a FW8 application form. They need to sign it, and then you can send it off. If your baby is born after the due date apply for an extension to carry this forward the full 12 months.
Although perhaps only a small thing, but one that's so vitally important, are the free books the government gives out to all babies and children. The Bookstart packs are available for kiddies aged from 0 to 4. There are three packs. The 0 to 12 months babies pack contains two books in the canvas bag. Next you'll get Bookstart+ for children aged 18 to 30 months, and the My Bookstart Treasure Chest for children aged 3 to 4.
Savings For Children
Sadly the government axed the child trust fund scheme along with the government payment. Instead, it is setting up Junior ISAs. Now these will launch later in the year, around November.
The government has announced plans to introduce Junior Isas from November 2011 - a new tax-free savings account for children which will be open to babies born from January 2011 onwards.
There won't be any contributions from the government, unfortunately. Junior ISAs will work in a similar way to adult ISAs. Each child can hold one cash ISA, and one stocks and shares ISA. Contributions of up to £3,000 a year can be made tax-free across both accounts. The accounts will belong to your child, and they are not able to get the money out until they are 18.
The most well known baby club that hands out freebies is Bounty with its Bounty Packs. The packs contain important information, expert advice, support and (the best bit) lots of try before you buy samples.
You should get your first pack when you first visit with the midwife early in your pregnancy. The next is the Mum To Be pack, for those past their three month pack. There will be a voucher in the first pack for you to receive this one.
At the end of your pregnancy you'll get another pack. This one will contain some stuff you'll find quite useful like samples of wipes, washing powder tablets and nursing pads.
I remember getting the newborn pack in hospital the day after my son was born. It had the Pampers wipes dispenser in it, which I found immensely useful (and compatible with other brands of wipes!).
If I remember rightly though, it was the last pack (there will be a voucher in the newborn one you can redeem at Sainsburys and Boots) that was the best. It was chock full of really useful samples.
The following all have their own baby clubs. What you get will vary from free samples to cuddly toys, or maybe just money off vouchers. Boots, Tesco, Sainsburys, Toys R Us, Cow & Gate, Aptimil, and Hipp.
Free Money For Your Child
Regular readers of PlayPennies will probably also be familiar with other cash back shopping schemes. This one, Kidstart, will pay a percentage of the money you spend online into your child's saving account, provided you shop through their site.
For example, this could be up to 5% of whatever you spend at Mothercare, or 1% on most items at Argos. It all adds up in the long term, especially taking compound interest into account, and can help you create a nice little nest egg for your children.
According to recent reports, we're all just two paydays away from being broke if we lose our jobs. There's nothing more stressful than being on a low income when you're pregnant or just had a baby. But there are a few things that the government is doing to help make it easier.
A low income is defined as a household earning below £16,190 a year. You are entitled to Healthy Start Vouchers. These can be used to buy milk, fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, infant formula milk, and vitamins.
It isn't a huge amount but can make a big difference. You will get £3.10pw when more than 10 weeks pregnant; £6.20pw for a baby under one year old; and £3.10pw for each child aged one to four.
A Sure Start Maternity Grant is also available for those on low incomes, although some additional restrictions seem to apply. It is a one off grant of £500 paid to help with the costs involved in the birth of a baby, and is only applicable to your first born child.