Each month, our advisers answer your questions. See what questions were asked in November, and what advice we gave.

Childcare fees

Hello, I just arrived last month in Milton Keynes with my child. She is four years old. I live in a house with a friend and I pay him a rent. I would like to go to work as fast as I can but I have to register my child at nursery school.

The problem is that the nursery schedule doesn’t help me. They only give me 15 hours a week and also don’t have free places. I was wondering if you can help me with some advice so I can go to work immediately and afford to pay rent. Thank you very much.

Our advice

You can contact your local Family Information Service to find details of childcare providers in your area that offer the free 15 hours a week of childcare. Once you begin working, you may be entitled to 30 free hours of childcare.

You may also be able to get help in a benefit called universal credit. Universal credit can help with the cost of the childcare you need to use while at work, or when travelling to and from work. You can find more information about help with childcare costs from universal credit on our website. Universal credit also includes other amounts, including allowances for you and your daughter and help with rent. You can find more information about universal credit and how to claim on the Citizens Advice website.

Universal credit can only pay for childcare costs once you have paid them. It doesn’t help with childcare costs that you need to pay in advance in order to start work. You may be able to get help with these costs from the Flexible Support Fund which each local Jobcentre Plus office has responsibility for. After claiming universal credit, you’ll need to make an appointment with your local Jobcentre Plus, where you can ask about the Flexible Support Fund.

If you have moved to the UK from abroad, this may affect whether you can claim benefits depending on your circumstances, including your nationality and immigration status. The rules are complicated and you may want to contact our helpline for further advice.

Support with fuel costs

Hi, I have no money to buy heating or fuel for me and my daughter during the winter. Is there any help we can get financially?

Our advice

Turn2us is a charity which can help you search for fuel grants either through their website or by contacting them on 0808 802 2000. Some food banks also have fuelbanks which can provide help with paying for fuel. You can search for your nearest foodbank on the Trussell Trust website.

You could contact your local council to find out if they have a local welfare assistance fund which can help you with the cost of fuel. Find more information about getting financial help in an emergency on our website.

Maternity leave and universal credit

At the time my maternity leave was coming to an end when I had my son in 2011, the company I was working for were making redundancies. I decided to take voluntary redundancy and then went onto benefits – income support, child tax credits etc.

When my son went into full-time education at five, I was expected to find work so went on Jobseeker’s Allowance until I started my current employment. When I started this job, I was put on universal credit. I’m due another baby in April and I’m considering my options about whether to return to work or not return after my maternity leave is finished.

If I choose not to return to work, will I be sanctioned in some way and have benefits withheld, or will it just be amended to my new situation? Thank you for any advice.

Our advice

If you choose not to return to work after your maternity leave, no sanction will be applied to your universal credit as there’s no requirement for you to be available or looking for work until your youngest child is three. Your universal credit will be re-calculated based on your situation at that time.

As you’re receiving universal credit, the amount you receive during your maternity leave will change depending on your maternity pay, housing costs, and if you have any childcare costs.

We would need more information to do a calculation and advise you on your situation. You can call our free helpline on 0808 802 0925 if you’d like to talk through your situation in more detail with one of our advisers.

Child maintenance payments

I recently cancelled my case with child maintenance as me and the father came to a civil agreement about money. This was four weeks ago, and the money came out of his payslip today but hasn’t gone into my bank.

I want this issue resolving as soon as possible as we are out of pocket now and don’t have a clue were this money is.

Our advice

It’s not clear if you have cancelled your entire application with the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) or just stopped a deduction from earnings order (DEO).

If there’s a DEO, the CMS should pass this onto the person with care within ten days of receipt, so it may be paid to you soon. You can contact the CMS for more information about exactly what has happened.

You can check with the CMS if they’ve received the money from the employer and, if so, why they haven’t either passed it on to you or cancelled the DEO.  Once you have more information from the CMS, you can contact the Gingerbread helpline on 0808 802 0925 if you need further advice.

Financial support for home appliances

I am currently separating from my partner and he wants to take all the furniture and household appliances which he paid like freeze, freezer, sofa, bed etc.

Now, I am on a low income at the moment, so is there any chance to get household appliances through any of the charity? Currently I do not have any extra money to buy things like these. I have three year-old child so I desperately need the freezer and washing machine at least. Thank you.

Our advice

It can be really difficult to divide possessions during separation. The Money Advice Service has some information about what the law says in this situation.

You could contact your local council to find out if they have a local welfare assistance fund which can help you with essential furniture. Turn2us is a charity which can help you search for grants for furniture. You can search for grants on their website or contact them on 0808 802 2000.

You may also find the Reuse Network useful. It has a network of centres around the country which offer affordable household items to those on a low income. You can search their website to find a Reuse Centre near you.

There is also more information about money in an emergency on our website.