Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Birth bureaucracy

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Because humans are awful, after you’ve undergone ‘the miracle of birth’, you or your partner will have some paperwork to do. Whilst living in the UK means that we don’t have to go through any health insurance paperwork, there are some formalities that have to be completed after your baby is born.

Although our bundle of joy isn’t quite here yet, I have spent some time looking into what we need to do after he/she/they decides to arrive in the world.

1. Register the birth

Once the baby has been born, you or your partner has 42 days to formally register the birth. This makes sure that the child ‘exists’ from a legal perspective (I think – I’m not a lawyer). It should be done in the district where the child is born, at a register office run by the local council. For us, that’s with Calderdale Council in Halifax, provided that our child is born as planned in our local hospital.

Each council will handle things differently, but you’ll probably need to make an appointment, rather than just dropping in. I’d suggest looking on your local council’s web site to see what their arrangements are.

Traditionally, registering the birth has been the job of the father of the child, but in this enlightened age, either the mother or her partner can do so. Before you go, you’ll need to have chosen and agreed a name for the child. Don’t do what my grandfather did: he forgot the name on the way to the register office, and as this was the age before mobile phones, he just put down what he thought was correct. So my aunt ended up with a different name.

You’ll also need to wait until the child has been born – you can’t register a birth if the birth hasn’t actually happened yet. However, you don’t need to wait until a child has left hospital; indeed, if your baby needs special care, it may need to spend more than 42 days in hospital.

Once the registration is done, you will receive a short-from copy of your child’s birth certificate, which you’ll need for the next step. However, you’ll also have the option to buy a full certificate, which includes your details (and those of your partner, if applicable). I would recommend buying the full certificate, for reasons that will become apparent later on in this blog post.

2. Claiming child benefit

Currently, the British government will pay you £20.70 per week to look after one child, plus an additional £13.70 per additional child. Nowadays, this benefit is paid every four weeks into your bank account. The amount you get is fixed at one of these two amounts – it’s not income-assessed, so you will receive the same money regardless of how much you or your partner earns.

You can download the form from the gov.uk website. When you’re in hospital, you may get accosted by a representative from a company called Bounty who will offer the forms as part of a pack, in return for your (and your baby’s) personal details. I’d suggest asking the Bounty rep to live you alone, to give you time to bond with your new baby in peace, and then print off and complete the form yourself. The completed form then needs to be sent by post with your child’s birth certificate – this has to be the original, so photocopy it first before you post it.

If you’re well off, you can choose not to claim the benefit, but you should still send the form off. This will benefit you as a parent, as it will ensure that you get National Insurance credits during any time off work, thus avoiding any shortfalls when calculating your state pension entitlements at retirement. It will also benefit your child; completion of the form will mean that he/she/they will get a National Insurance number at age 16.

Although Christine and I are reasonably well off, an extra £89 per month will be very welcome. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s effectively a small pay rise for you.

3. Informing your employer

If you’re working and taking maternity or paternity leave, you should have informed your employer long before the birth of your intention to take leave. And, if your baby arrives on time, you probably won’t need to do anything. However, if you give birth early – i.e. before the start of your agreed maternity leave, you’ll need to speak to your employer to get them to move your maternity leave forward.

4. Getting a passport

This third step is optional, and only necessary if you plan to go on an overseas holiday with your baby.

In ye olden days, children could travel on their mother’s passport. Nowadays, every travelling person must have their own passport, even if that person is tiny and very new to this world. Instructions for how to apply for a child passport are on gov.uk, and you will need that full birth certificate that you should have paid for when registering your child’s birth at the council register office. You’ll also need to get your child to stay still long enough with their eyes open to get a photograph. Unlike adult passports, child passports are only valid for five years.

5. Do a benefits check-up

The arrival of a child into your household, especially your first, can affect your eligibility for various benefits. Some, like Child tax Credits, may become available to you for you for the first time, but your eligibility for others may cease. When you register the birth, your registrar may mention a service called ‘Tell Us Once’, which allows the council to pass your details to various other government agencies, to re-calculate any benefits payments. If not, you may need to speak to your local Job Centre, and HM Revenue & Customs.

I would also use the Benefits Calculator on MoneySavingExpert.com, to see if there’s anything else that you can claim, however, it won’t cover everything.

If you’re on a lower income or already receiving some benefits, you may be entitled to a £500 Sure Start Maternity Grant to help with the costs of buying equipment for your baby. It’s a one-off grant that doesn’t have to be paid back. You can download the form, print it off, complete it, and then return it by post, or to your local Job Centre. If you need any more help with the cost of parenting, I would recommend booking an appointment at your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Becoming a parent seems to be a rather daunting thing, and when faced with the prospect of looking after a tiny, helpless human child, the thought of completing paperwork is probably the last thing on your mind. Sadly, in the modern world, it’s something all new parents have to do, and that’ll include us soon.

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