Benefits at 16

15 mins read

This advice applies across the UK.

When your child turns 16, the benefits they can claim – and those you can claim for them – may change. Here we explain some of the decisions you might have to make about the benefits your family claims.

In this article

Moving from child to adult disability benefits

England, Northern Ireland and Wales

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) replaces Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for adults aged 16-64.

Children getting DLA must normally 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.

If you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland and you have a child on DLA who is approaching 16, you should receive notice in writing when your child will need 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 PIP.


Disability Living Allowance in Scotland has been replaced by Child Disability Payment. A new benefit, Adult Disability Payment, is also in the process of replacing PIP in Scotland for adults aged 16-64.

If your child gets Child Disability Payment, they will have to make a claim for Adult Disability Payment at some point between their 16th and 18th birthday.

When your child is approaching the age of 16, Social Security Scotland will write to you asking if they need an appointee to manage their benefits. They will also explain that they have the option of making a claim for Adult Disability Payment once they turn 16. They don’t have to do this. If they prefer, your son or daughter can choose to continue to get Child Disability Payment. They can instead wait and claim Adult Disability Payment at any point while they are 16 or 17.

However, they should try and make sure that they claim Adult Disability Payment before they turn 18. This is to make sure that there is no gap in their disability benefit payments. So long as they lodge their claim before their 18th birthday, their Child Disability Payment award will continue until a decision has been made on their Adult Disability Payment claim.  

Find out more about Adult Disability Payment.

What happens to benefits I claim for my child at 16?

When we talk about benefits and tax credits you’re claiming for a young person, we mean the payments listed below:

As a general rule, these payments 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.

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.

Continuing to claim for your child as part of your family

If your child stays in certain types of education or training, payments can usually continue until their 19th birthday. This is the case unless they stop attending the course or training before that date.

Payments can be extended to their 20th birthday (or the 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?

The course must be full time. 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. In England, if a course is defined as “appropriate full-time education”, then for tax credit purposes it doesn’t matter how many hours it involves.

The course must be non-advanced. A course is non-advanced education when below the level of a degree, HND, or national vocational qualifications at level 4. Non advanced courses include:

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.

Training courses

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”, Child Benefit and other payments you get for them as part of your family will stop.

Will bursaries or other course funding 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 you have not claimed Child Tax Credit yet. Seek further advice if this applies to you.  

Student funding can impact on means-tested benefits your son or daughter claim in their own right as a young adult. The exception to this is Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and the 16-19 bursary, Call our freephone helpline for further advice.

How do I make sure I get these payments beyond 16?

The Child Benefit office will write to you during the school year that your son or daughter turns 16. They will 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, your Child Benefit will stop. It will also stop if you don’t return the form.

The Tax Credits Office automatically assumes any young person 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 (0345 300 3900) during the summer. 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 you get Universal Credit payments for a 16-19 year old as part of your family claim then you should also let Universal Credit know if they are staying on in full time non advanced education after the summer holidays.

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

Once a child has left non-advanced education or training, you cannot normally 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. 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, 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 dependant. 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. Most students in full-time advanced education cannot get Universal Credit. Only certain groups can, for example students who have a child of their own.

If your child is temporarily unable to continue their studies (for example because of ill-health), 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

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.

Listen to our podcast episode about tax credits & Child Benefit payments when your child has a temporary break in education.

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. Cite the rules on ‘interruptions to full-time education’. These are 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 as a dependant instead of tax credits. You should be able to argue that any Universal Credit payments you get for them as a dependant should continue while they remain enrolled or accepted on their course, even if they are temporarily unable to attend due to their health problems.

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.

Claiming 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. Some 16- and 17-year-olds can also claim. This includes a 16- or 17-year-old who is submitting medical certificates from their GP. 

Most people receiving education cannot claim Universal Credit unless they have a dependent child.

There are three main groups of students who may still be able to get Universal Credit in education. These are:

The rules are extremely complex. We suggest you read our full webpage below, or call our free helpline for detailed advice.

Universal Credit for young people in education

Read more about the rules around claiming Universal Credit in education.

read more

If your son or daughter wants to claim Universal Credit, they need to get a medical certificate from their GP. This is known as a statement of fitness for work or a “fit note”. Having a fit note will allow them to start claiming Universal Credit straight away, so long as they are not “receiving education”. 

If your child gets Universal Credit, you will lose any benefits you get for them as part of your family.

Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit. But if your son or daughter claims it, the Department for Work and Pensions will only look at their income and capital, not yours. 

Getting Universal Credit and charges for adult services

If your son or daughter is 18 or over and getting residential or community care services through the local authority’s adult team, getting Universal Credit could lead to them having to pay some charges towards those services.

Contact our free helpline for further information.

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 is able to get Universal Credit 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 gets Universal Credit 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. 

Who will receive 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, either you or your partner will receive these payments.

From the age of 16, payments of PIP, Child Disability Payment or Adult Disability Payment will usually go directly to your son or daughter. 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 office paying you that benefit gives 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 relevant office 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 in England or Wales (or 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 your child needs an appointee. 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 the courts have appointed you to look after your child’s affairs, for example as a deputy or guardian, you won’t have to do anything else except provide evidence of these court appointed powers. 

If you live in Scotland and your child gets Child Disability Payment, Social Security Scotland will contact you as your child is approaching 16 to see if they require an appointee.

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, the 16-19 bursary replaced EMA. 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.

When you’re claiming benefits

The benefit cap

Benefits at 16

Changes in circumstances

Revisions, appeals & complaints

Ongoing benefit changes

< Benefits & tax credits