From 1 July 2018, the New Zealand government is introducing a number of initiatives designed to provide more financial support for Kiwi families. Known as the Families Package, one of the highlights is a new payment called Best Start. This will give parents weekly payments of $60 for the first year of their baby’s life – that’s a total of up to $3,120. The payment is available to eligible parents who have a baby due on or after 1 July 2018. If you have more than one baby, you can apply to get Best Start for each of them.
All families will receive the payment until their child is one year old, regardless of their household income. Households with an income of less than $79,000 will continue to receive $60 per week until the child turns three. Those earning above $79,000 will continue to receive payments but at a reduced amount, up to the cut-off of $93,858 (for one child).
Best Start will be a very welcome helping hand for people having their first baby. There are always a lot of unexpected costs during the first year – one-off items such as prams and cots, as well as ongoing expenses such as nappies and warm clothing. For those who are on a tight budget the payments will help at a critical time. With ongoing support for up to three years, it is hoped that a lot more Kiwi kids really will get the Best Start.
It’s easy to apply
The last thing you want to be worrying about when you’ve just had a baby is paperwork. So it’s been made as easy as possible to apply for Best Start. You apply when registering your baby’s birth through the SmartStart website (smartstart.services.govt.nz). There are no other forms to complete. Payments start shortly afterwards, or if you’re receiving paid parental leave they’ll begin when your leave ends.
If you don’t register your baby through SmartStart, you can apply for Best Start by completing the Working for Families (FS1) registration form online, or you can fill it out by hand and post it to the Inland Revenue.
You have to be the principal caregiver of the child. You also need to be a New Zealand resident or citizen who has been in New Zealand for a continuous period of 12 months or more. Finally, the child needs to be both a resident of, and present in New Zealand.
What if baby comes early?
Babies don’t always appear on cue. So if bubs is due on or after 1 July but is born before 1 July, don’t worry, they’re still eligible for Best Start.
More paid parental leave
More good news: paid parental leave is being extended, from 18 weeks up to a maximum of 22 weeks. Again, this applies to babies due on or after 1 July – or children under the age of six years coming into your care on or after 1 July.
Keeping-in-touch hours are also increasing from 40 hours to 52. So if you’ve got a job and you’re on parental leave, you can use your keeping-in touch hours to stay connected with your job and do a bit of work from time to time. This is perfect if you have a team day or need to keep up with what’s going on at work.
For more information go to ird.govt.nz/beststart
The information contained in this article was provided by Inland Revenue – Te Tari Taake.