When I found out I was pregnant I remember specifically sitting in the strand toilets peeing on the stick. I lived in what can only be described as a expanded bedsit! I had only been with my boyfriend for 5 months but you know when you just know you'll be OK? I never really wanted kids, or moreover I never knew I wanted kids, but that moment only clarified how wrong I was. The moment I saw that very heavy '+' on that test the biggest nervous/happy smile spread across my face and like fuck I could wipe it off. I didn't want to even if I was walking around like a serial killer, I was carrying the most important creature in the universe and nothing was taking my attention. But once the initial buzz wore off the panic kind of set in. And I found myself worrying 'what about affording things, what about that, my body, my baby, my brain, my relationship, my LIFE, water infections, scars, fanny infections from the birth, paying for pain meds after a c section' and the list goes on. So I HAD to look at what I was entitled to. That and word of mouth from some VERY helpful people, especially women around me who had children, because our government has an excellent way of hiding things from us, especially things we're entitled to that will save. Us. Money! But I'm a mama and girl... I get it. So I'm going to let you know a few things you're entitled to!
Surestart maternity grant: £500 to spend on baby products. Now we're extremely lucky in this country to have a benefits system, flawed as it is, and trust me it IS hugely flawed, we're in the process of trying to get our money as they stopped it and left us to survive on next to fuck all. But we ARE cared for in some ways (bias as it may be to the working full time people). And one way we are cared for is the surestart maternity grant. This is a £500 grant, yes, free money, in order to help you purchase baby items. You are only entitled to this ONCE and no, sadly it's not for everyone. According to the direct gov website:
Maternity Exemption Certificate - This one is a doozy if, like me, you work so pay for prescriptions (yes our NHS is an incredible thing). Filling this in means that during pregnancy and for one whole year after the birth of your child/children, YOU will be exempt from paying for any medicines. Now this may not seem a big thing, but with your regular prescriptions now totalling an average of just over £9, and water infections being rife in pregnancy and in my life personally, this could save you a LOT of money. So far I think this has saved me around £50, may not seem a lot but maternity pay is shockingly low so take what you can while you can because baby clothes don't buy themselves and trust me, them little shits grow fast and often! You can apply for this through your midwife/GP as they usually have the forms in surgery, or you can do so online. Here is a link: https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/exemption-certificates/maternity-exemption-certificates
SMP/SMA - Most know this but a few clearly don't and it is extremely important that you know it. Statutory Maternity Pay - this is what you are entitled to for 39 weeks from work as long as you have worked there 26 weeks before you inform them of your pregnancy but you have to give them the form by your 25th week of pregnancy (yes, it is a pain in the arse to work out when you're sprogged up and have baby brain). This will then enable them to put legal plans to action to pay you your SMP which at the moment is "90% of your average weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks. £151.20 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks." Some companies really look after their employees paying them a larger amount, but that is their decision and their own good will! Other companies (like who I work for) are not so generous and stick to the bare minimum which is why it's best to find out you're pregnant early on to enable you to save if you are lucky enough to afford to do so. Because if you intend on taking the full year maternity, 3 months wont be paid! SMA - very similar to SMP, but this is through benefits instead. In order to get this you will need your mat b1 form filled in (again you should get this at your 20 week scan but can request from your midwife/gp) and give it in to your job coach. You will receive SMA for 39 weeks, which at the moment stands at "£151.20 per week or 90% of your average gross weekly earnings (before tax), whichever is the smaller amount. If you are furloughed because of coronavirus, your earnings should be assessed on what you would usually earn, and not on the 80% you have been receiving."
Free dental care - For this see, maternity exemption certificate.
Eye care - This one really stung me! Do you know around 50% of women experience changes to eyesight during and after pregnancy? I didn't until it happened to me. And NO the government does not give a shit. This is something not included on your maternity exemption, although I REALLY think it should be. Shall we petition? But in the event you are one of the lucky ones who fit the criteria (without having other negative health problems of course) here are some of the criteria for maybe receiving some help because contrary to popular belief, having clear vision doesn't come cheap! (I've only included a brief list from the NHS website linked to benefits)
"You're entitled to a free NHS sight test if you:
You're also entitled if you or your partner – including civil partner – receive, or you're under the age of 20 and the dependant of someone receiving:
You will find the full list on https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/help-with-health-costs/free-nhs-eye-tests-and-optical-vouchers/
I know this is only a few, and no it isn't glitz and glam, but these entitlements aren't as well known as you or I may have thought. I know somewhere there's some poor sos reading thinking, for fucks sake I've been scammed out of £500 and had to buy a pram from bargain bay and now it's too late! And if I can stop that one person from struggling I will. I was lucky I have a big family who have big mouths who arwn't shy about telling you how to save money especially when you need it. If you think you might need help for something, honestly, ask. Or research and see and you'll probably find there is a whole world of help right there in front of you and no need to struggle. In times like these, we can't be afraid to ask or offer our help and advice. If you know someone who might benefit from these benefits, by all means please show them!
Until next time gang, don't be a stranger and stay safe!
💙 Much Love 💖