Benefits at 16
On this page we look at the benefits it may be possible for a young disabled person to claim once they turn 16 years of age.
Moving from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment
Children getting DLA are asked to claim PIP shortly after their 16 birthday. The only exceptions to this are young people who are terminally ill and those who are hospital in-patients. If your child does not claim PIP when asked to by the Department for Work and Pensions, their DLA award will end.
Find out more about Personal Independence Payment.
Alongside PIP, you may be able to claim other benefits for your child once they turn 16. If your child stays in certain types of education or training you will have a choice: you can either carry on claiming benefits and tax credits for them as part of your family or you can help them claim benefits such as Universal Credit in their own right as a young disabled adult. But you will need to weigh up which option is likely to leave your family better off.
Continuing to claim for your son or daughter as part of your family
As a general rule, Child Benefit, tax credits and other payments for a young person automatically continue until the September after their 16th birthday. After that, whether you will be able to continue getting these payments depends on their circumstances.
When we talk about 'benefits and tax credits' on this page, we mean the payments listed below:
- Child Benefit.
- Child Tax Credit.
- Additional amounts for a dependent child or young person paid with universal credit.
- Additional amounts for a child or young person paid with Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
- Additional amounts included in the assessment of any Housing Benefit and Council Tax support you claim.
From the September following a young person's 16th birthday, you can only carry on getting payments for them as a dependant if they are attending a course of full-time, non-advanced education, or are in certain types of approved training.
Payments can then usually continue until their 19th birthday, unless they stop attending the course or training before that date. Payments can be extended to their 20th birthday (September after their 19th birthday for Universal Credit) if they're completing a course they started, or were enrolled on, or offered a place on, before they turned 19.
What kind of course counts?
To count as full-time, a young person's course must normally be for more than 12 hours a week during term time. This includes classes, tuition and any supervised study. It doesn't include meal breaks or unsupervised study. Home education may count in some cases. If a child is in England and is on a course that is defined as 'appropriate full-time education' then it doesn't matter how many hours it involves.
A course is non-advanced education when it is below the level of an HND (HNC in Scotland). This includes:
- 'A' levels and below.
- Advanced Highers (Scotland) and below.
- NVQ/SVQ Level 3 and below.
- Ordinary National Diplomas or BTEC Diplomas.
- Courses offering life-skills or other training suitable for young people with special educational needs.
Other courses may also be classed as non-advanced. If you are uncertain about the level of your son or daughter's course, seek further advice.
Keeping the relevant benefits offices informed
The Child Benefit office will write to you during the school year that your son or daughter turns 16 to ask if they will be staying on in full-time education or approved training, and when you expect them to leave. If you say they are leaving full-time education or training or if you don't return the form, your Child Benefit will stop.
The Tax Credits Office automatically assumes any young person aged 16 will leave education in the summer after they turn 16. They automatically stop any payments for them from the September after their 16th birthday. For tax credits to continue, you must contact the Tax Credits Office during the summer on 0345 300 3900 to tell them the young person will continue in non-advanced education or approved training.
Similarly if you have a 17, 18 or 19 year old who will be staying on in education after the summer holidays, make sure that you let the Tax Credits Office know.
If a young person gets a bursary or other funding to attend their course, will this affect the payments I get?
Student funding will not affect any benefits or tax credits you get for your child. The only exception to this is if you get Income Support and your award includes extra payments for your children because have not claimed Child Tax Credit yet. Seek further advice if this applies to you.
Student funding, apart from Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and the 16-19 bursary, can impact on means-tested benefits claimed by your son or daughter in their own right as a young adult. Call our freephone helpline for further advice.
In some parts of the UK, young people on an approved training course can still get a training allowance. It may be possible to continue claiming Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit payments for your son or daughter in these circumstances. Seek further advice.
If they are on a training course that is not classed as 'approved training' then Child Benefit and other payments you get for them as part of your family will stop.
If your child is temporarily unable to continue their studies (for example because of ill-health) then you may still be able to get child benefit and tax credits for them. Unfortunately any Universal Credit payments you get for them as a child are likely to stop. Call our free helpline for advice about claiming benefits during a temporary interruption in education.
Once a child has left non-advanced education or training, you cannot normally continue to claim benefits for them as a dependant.
If a young person leaves school to move into advanced education, such as a university course, any benefits and tax credits you claim for them as your dependant will stop. They will need individual advice about claiming Universal Credit as a disabled student. Contact our free helpline.
If a young person starts a training course then you can only continue to claim benefits for them as part of your family if they are in 'approved training'. If it is not approved training you will no longer be able to claim benefits for them as a dependent. Contact our free helpline for more advice.
If a young person leaves school or college to start working, you will no longer get benefits or tax credits for them as your dependant. They will need individual advice about whether they will get any Universal Credit to top up their earnings.
If you have a disabled son or daughter who is not in education, training or work and they should be able to claim Universal Credit.
Many young disabled people in education or training have the option of claiming benefits in their own right.
Most young disabled people have the option of claiming Universal Credit as a young disabled adult. A very small number of disabled youngsters may be exempt from Universal Credit and can instead claim income related Employment and Support allowance. However this will only apply if your son or daughter has already been getting another means tested benefit in their own right that includes a payment known as the 'severe disability premium'. Phone our free Helpline for further advice if you think this applies to you.
If they claim either Universal Credit or income related Employment and Support Allowance you will lose any benefits you get for them as part of your family. This is the case even if they remain in full-time non-advanced education or approved training.
Given this you will need to think carefully about whether you help them claim in their own right or continue claiming benefits for them as part of your family.
Universal Credit is a means tested benefit but if your son or daughter claims it, the DWP will only look at their income and capital and not yours.
Will we be better off if my son or daughter claims benefits in their own right?
This will depend on your family circumstances. You need to compare how much they will get if they claim in their own right with what you will lose from your benefits and tax credits.
If your family income is high and you don't qualify for much in tax credits or Universal Credit - there is a good chance your household will be better off if your child claims benefits in their own right.
Families with a lower income - who therefore get higher tax credit or Universal Credit payments - run the risk that they will be worse off if a young person claims benefits in their own right. The higher your own means tested payments, the less chance you will gain if your son or daughter claims in their own right.
In some circumstances, you will also see a reduction in help you get with rent and Council Tax.
Claiming Universal Credit for a young person
If your son or daughter wants to claim Universal Credit (UC) they are will need to get a medical certificate from their GP - known as a statement of fitness for work or a 'fit note'. Having a fit note will allow them to start claiming UC straightaway so long as they are not treated as in education.
If your child is treated as receiving education, the situation is more complicated. A young person in full-time education can only claim Universal Credit if they get either DLA or PIP and they are also assessed as having a limited capability for work. This means that they need to submit medical certificates (known as fit-notes) and then wait to be put through an assessment known as the 'work capability assessment' by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The problem is that it can take several months for this assessment to be completed and for the DWP to accept that someone has a limited capability for work.
This means that there is likely to be a lengthy delay before Universal Credit payments start for a young person who is in education. Contact our free helpline for further information about claiming Universal Credit for a young person who is in education.
Getting Universal Credit and charges for adult services
If your son or daughter is aged 18 or over and getting residential or community care services through the local authority's adult team, getting Universal Credit could lead to them being asked to pay some charges towards those services. Contact our free helpline for further information.
Education Maintenance Allowance and the 16-19 bursary fund
Young people who stay on at school or college may be able to apply for other types of financial help. The Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is a weekly payment for young people in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales who stay on in full-time, non-advanced education after the age of 16. Whether a young person qualifies depends on parental income. The rules vary are different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In England EMA was replaced by the 16-19 bursary fund. A young person who gets either DLA or PIP, and who also gets Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit, may get a 'vulnerable bursary' of £1,200 a year, so long as they are on an eligible course.
Payment of EMA or a 16-19 bursary doesn't affect any of the benefits or tax credits that you receive. Neither will it affect any payments your child gets if they are claiming benefits in their own right.
However, if your son or daughter claims Universal Credit or ESA in order to access the vulnerable student's 16-19 bursary, the fact that they start to receive Universal Credit means that you will no longer be able to receive benefits such as tax credits and Child Benefit for them as a dependent child.
For more information about EMA, the 16-19 bursary and training allowances, please call our freephone helpline.
If you claim Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit amounts for your child as a dependant, these are always paid to either you or your partner.
From the age of 16, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will usually be paid directly to your son or daughter. Also, if they claim Universal Credit or any other benefits in their own right as a young adult, this will usually be paid to them rather than to you.
The only exception to this is if they lack the mental capacity to manage their own affairs. If this is the case, you may be able to receive and manage benefits for them, acting as their appointee.
If your child is unable to manage their own benefits, you can become their appointee. This means that the DWP give you the responsibility to make claims on their behalf and for managing any benefits payments they get. You will also be responsible for keeping the DWP informed of any changes in your child's circumstances.
Becoming an appointee only gives you the power to manage their benefits. It does not give you any wider rights to deal with their affairs.
How do I become an appointee?
If your child already gets DLA, the DWP should write to you in the six months before your child turns 16. They should do this at the same time as they send you information about moving onto PIP. If this doesn't happen automatically, or if your child loses the capacity to manage their benefits at some point after they turn 16, contact the DWP to tell them that you think your child needs an appointee.
The DWP will arrange for one of their staff to do a home visit in order to assess if an appointee is required. You will only be made an appointee if the DWP agree that your child lacks the capacity to manage their own affairs. Usually this will be due to mental capacity but in exceptional circumstances it can be because of a physical disability. You can't become an appointee simply because it is more convenient for you or your child.
If you have already been appointed by the courts to look after their affairs e.g. as a deputy or guardian, you won't have to do anything else except provide evidence of these court appointed powers.
- See our summary factsheet Personal Independence Payment - a new benefit for disabled people aged 16 and above
- See our guide to Personal independence payment [PDF]
- Find out what else you need to know when your child moves into adulthood.