All the benefits and support for parents over the school holidays including food vouchers

The school holidays are often an expensive time for parents.

In fact, research released by mobile network Vodafone shows mums, dads and carers will spend up to £1,300 on keeping their children entertained during the six-week break.

Many families will be tightening their purse strings this summer as the cost of living crisis means prices are rising at the fastest rate in 40 years.

It means parents who are struggling under rising bills should make sure they’re claiming all the free help they’re entitled to.

With just weeks to go until the kids break up, we round up all the benefits and support you can get – from free food vouchers to support groups.

The tax-free childcare scheme allows parents to pay into an online account, and the Government then adds a certain amount on top.

If you’re eligible, you can get up to £500 every three months – up to £2,000 a year – for each of your children.

For disabled children, the maximum amount you could get rises to £4,000.

For every £8 you pay into your online account, you’ll get a free £2 added on by the Government, up to the limits mentioned above.

This money must then be spent on a registered childcare provider, such as nurseries, nannies, after school clubs and play schemes.

30 hours free childcare
All parents with three to four year olds in England are eligible for 15 hours free childcare a week.

But working mums and dads might be able to boost this amount by another 15 hours to get 30 hours free childcare.

This counts for 38 weeks of the year, during term time – but it might be possible for you to spread these hours out over the full 52 weeks in a year to cover the holidays.

To do this, you’d have to claim less than 30 hours a week free childcare.

Check with your childcare provider to find out if you’re able to spread out your free hours over longer than 38 weeks.

To qualify for 30 hours free childcare, you must be working at least 16 hours a week on average and earning at least the National Minimum Wage.

Child benefit
Child benefit is paid to parents and guardians who are responsible for a young adult.

If you or your partner earn less than £50,000 per year, you can claim the full amount of child benefit.

You get £21.80 a week for your first child, then any other child you have qualifies for £14.45 a week each.

Over the year, if you have just one child, this would amount to more than £1,000.

To claim child benefit, you need to live in the UK and be responsible for someone under the age of 16, or under 20 if they’re in approved education or training.

Healthy Start scheme
Heathy Start is a scheme where parents can get money toward the cost of fruit, vegetables, milk, formula for babies and vitamins.

Each voucher – which is issued to a pre-paid card – is currently worth £4.25 per week.

If you have a child under the age of one, you could get two vouchers a week, taking your total amount to £8.50.

You have to claim certain benefits to qualify for the Healthy Start scheme

If you’re under 18 and more than 10 weeks pregnant, you’ll get Healthy Start money until your baby is born regardless of whether you claim benefits or not.

Families in Scotland aren’t eligible for Healthy Start and must apply for help through Best Start Foods instead.

Sure Start centres
Sure Start is a scheme designed to help disadvantaged children under the age of four. Some nurseries are part of the Sure Start programme.

A Sure Start centre helps parents and children access a variety of advice and support and activities, as well as help finding childcare.

There are different websites to help you search for a Sure Start centre, depending on where you live in the UK:

England
Wales
Scotland
Northern Ireland
Sure Start also delivers a one-off maternity grant worth of £500 to help towards the costs of having a child.

You won’t be able to apply for this if you live in Scotland. Instead, you should apply for a Pregnancy and Baby Payment.

Parent and baby groups
Ask your GP or health visitor for information about parent and baby groups near you.

You can sometimes see advertisements for these at your local child health clinic, children’s centre, library, advice centre, supermarket or newsagent.

The idea of these groups is that it allows parents to share experiences while their children mix with other kids their own age.

The Trussell Trust has an online search tool where you can enter your postcode to bring up your closest organisation.

Families and individuals are usually referred to a food bank.

This is usually done through professionals including doctors, health visitors, social workers and Citizens Advice.