Benefits at 16

14 mins read

Depending on your situation, you may be able to continue claiming benefits for your child when they turn 16 or help them claim benefits in their own account as a young disabled adult.

In this article

Moving from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) replaces Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for adults aged 16-64. DLA will continue as a separate benefit for children aged under 16 years.  

Except for in Scotland, children getting DLA are normlly asked to claim PIP shortly after their 16 birthday. The only exceptions to this are currently young people who are terminally ill and those who are hospital in-patients.

In Scotland young people who turn 16 on or after 1 September 2020 will continue to get DLA until they turn 18 rather than being asked to claim PIP at 16. 

If you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland and you have a child on DLA who is approaching 16, you should have been told in writing when your child will be asked to claim PIP. If this has not happened, contact the DLA Unit or Social Security Agency in Northern Ireland to ask when this will happen.  

Find out more about Personal Independence Payment.

Can I continue to get child benefit and other payments for my child?

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 a degree, HND, or national vocational qualifications at level 4. Non advanced courses include:

  • ‘A’ levels and below.
  • Advanced Highers (Scotland) and below.
  • NVQ/SVQ Level 3 and below.
  • Ordinary National Diplomas and B-TEC National Diplomas and National Certificates.
  • 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.

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.

Training Allowances

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.

When will the benefits I receive for a dependent child stop?

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 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 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 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 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.

More about temporary breaks in education due to ill health

If your child is unable to continue with their studies temporarily, you may still be able to continue getting Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit payments for them.

Instead, a temporary absence due to illness or disability can be ignored for as long as seems reasonable in the circumstances, assuming that the young person intends to resume education or training. There is no requirement that the young person intends to return to the same course – it should be sufficient that they intend to return to full time non-advanced education of some sort.

If you are told that your Child Benefit or Tax Credits payments will be stopping because your child is temporarily unable to continue their studies due to illness, ask the relevant HMRC office to continue paying you under the rules on ‘interruptions to full-time education’ found at paragraph TCTM02230 of the Tax Credit Technical Manual and paragraph CBTM07050 of the Child Benefit Technical Manual.

The situation is more complex if you are getting extra Universal Credit payments for your son or daughter instead of tax credits. You should be able to argue that any Universal Credit payments you get for them as a dependant should continue whilst they remain enrolled or accepted on their course, even if they are temporarily unable to attend due to their health problems.

However, if they lose their place on their course due to non-attendance, any Universal Credit payments you get for them as a dependant will have to stop. This remains the case even if they intend to start another course in the near future. They may need to consider claiming Universal Credit in their own right as a young adult instead.

Call our free helpline for advice about continuing to claim benefits during a temporary interruption in education.

Can my child choose to claim benefits in their own right as a young adult?

Many young disabled people have the option of claiming Universal Credit as a young disabled adult.

Normally you need to be at least 18 years old to claim Universal Credit, but some 16 and 17 year olds can also claim. This includes a 16/17 year old who is submitting medical certificates from their GP. 

If your child gets Universal Credit 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 Deparment for Work and Pensions 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. 

You claim Universal Credit by making a claim online via the gov.uk website. If for some reason you are unable to claim on-line, call the Universal Credit Helpline on 0800 328 5644.

If your child is treated as receiving education, the situation is more more complicated. A young person receiving education is normally refused Universal Credit unless they can show that they get either DLA or PIP and they have been assessed as having a limited capability for work. The rules are extremely complex, so see our webpage on Universal Credit for young people 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.

Who will be paid the benefits for my child once they are 16?

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.

What is an 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 (Social Security Agency in Northern Ireland) 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/Social Security Agency 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. 

Related information

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