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Norfolk families missing out on summer benefits

PUBLISHED: 07:00 26 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:24 06 July 2010

Paul Hill, business editor

Thousands of hard-working families across East Anglia are failing to claim their rightful share of financial aid to help cover the cost of child care over the summer holidays.

Thousands of hard-working families across East Anglia are failing to claim their rightful share of financial aid to help cover the cost of child care over the summer holidays.

That was the warning last night from money-saving expert Martin Lewis as he urged parents to check what help they can get with their household budgets and child care costs.

Mr Lewis said the average family could be £68 a week better off by claiming what they were entitled to.

While 4,100 families in Norfolk already take advantage of the childcare element of the government's tax credit system, thousands more across East Anglia are missing out - with grandparents often picking up child-minding duties instead.

But Mr Lewis - who writes a fortnightly column for the EDP - stressed that child care costs could be claimed for teenagers as well as toddlers.

And today he offers EDP readers a four-step guide to cutting their child care costs - just as thousands of parents face taking time off work to look after their children through the school summer holidays.

"Times are tough for a lot of people, which is why it's so frustrating that many aren't claiming the thousands of pounds of extra cash they're entitled to in child care provision," he added.

"Many assume that payments for the government are the preserve of the unemployed, yet actually there are serious funds out there to offset the costs for working families.

"Combining these elements can add up. For example, the average help for childcare from tax credits is £68 a week which has a huge impact.

"After all, it's £3,500 a year. And don't think of childcare as just something for babies in swaddling cloth, actually it can even be summer classes for 15 year olds - if you're paying out, then you could be entitled."

Parents can get help with up to 80pc of their childcare cost through the tax credit system - up to a maximum cost of £175 a week for a single child or £300 a week for two or more children.

Depending on a family's income and eligibility, that means parents could get up to £140 a week in support for one child or £240 a week for two or more children.

Steve Wiseman, chief executive of Norwich and West Norfolk Citizens' Advice Bureau, agreed that thousands may be missing out.

"A lot of people are missing out on working tax credit because they don't know they're entitled to it," Mr Wiseman said.

"But even when people are claiming, they may be unaware they may be able to claim childcare vouchers and tax credits for child care as well. That would make an awful lot of difference for people - particularly when it means they can continue working and particularly when they face extra childcare costs, such as summer holidays."

Mr Wiseman added: "It's a combination of the complexity of the process and not being aware that they are entitled to claim that puts people off.

"They may already be claiming some childcare support and have forgotten and that it can vary when the cost of childcare varies.

"We'd certainly advice people to claim and if they are in any doubt, call a bureau for a benefits check."

Visit Martin Lewis' website MoneySavingExpert.com and the Citizens' Advice Bureau at www.citizensadvice.org.uk

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