Changes in circumstances

16 mins read

This advice applies across the UK.

Certain changes in circumstances can mean that the benefits you receive for your disabled child or for your family might change.

In this article

Your child’s needs increase

If your child’s needs increase, it may help you qualify for a disability benefit for the first time. For example, you might now qualify where you have been refused benefit in the past.

If your child already gets one of:

But their circumstances change and they now need more help, it may be possible to get an increased award. You can contact the office paying them benefit to ask them to look at your child’s award again. This is known as a “supersession request”, and you can ask for this at any time.

You can also ask for a supersession if you think that your child should be on a higher rate of benefit than they get and you have missed the deadline to ask for a mandatory reconsideration or an appeal.

You can make a supersession request for any decision, including decisions an appeal tribunal has made. If you are not happy with the outcome of a supersession request, you have the right to ask for a mandatory reconsideration and appeal against that new decision. You do this in the normal way.

If your child’s award goes up to the highest rate for personal care or the enhanced rate of daily living, you may qualify for extra payments as part of any means-tested benefits you get, such as tax credits, Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. Make sure you let the offices paying you these benefits know if your child’s award goes up in this way.  

Children turning three years old

Even if your child’s needs haven’t changed, it may be worth asking for a review of their DLA or Child Disability Payment claim once they turn three. This is because they can start to qualify for the higher rate of the mobility component from that age.

Sometimes the DLA Unit or Social Security Scotland will write to you when your child is turning three, inviting you to complete a form about their mobility needs. But this doesn’t always happen. There is nothing to stop you contacting the DLA Unit/Social Security Scotland. Ask that they have another look at the award and whether your child now qualifies for the mobility component.

Before doing this, it is a good idea to discuss your child’s needs with an adviser. This way, you can make sure that they have a realistic prospect of qualifying for the mobility component. 

If your child does not qualify for the higher rate of the mobility component, they may instead become eligible for the lower rate from age five. If your child turns five and is not on the mobility component, seek advice about whether you should ask for their DLA/Child Disability Payment award to be reconsidered.


A supersession request can result in an award increasing, staying the same or reducing. Because of the risk of benefit going down, it is best to discuss your child’s case with an adviser beforehand. You may be able to get help from a Citizens Advice, or local welfare rights service. You can search for local benefits advisers by using the Turn2Us find an adviser tool.

If your child’s condition improves

If your child’s need for care or help with getting around reduces, this may mean a drop in the rate of DLA, PIP, Child Disability Payment or Adult Disability Payment they get.

You must keep the office paying you a disability benefit informed about any changes in your child’s care or mobility needs.

If your child goes into residential care or residential school

Overnight stays away from home in a residential school, or in residential care, can affect the benefits you receive for your child. Different rules apply to stays in hospital.


It is your responsibility to tell each of the relevant offices each time your child is away from home in a residential setting.

This is a complex area that can sometimes result in families being overpaid benefit, which they are then asked to repay. This usually happens when families don’t realise they need to tell all the relevant benefits offices about their child’s stays in a residential setting.

DLA, PIP, Child Disability Payment & Adult Disability Payment

If your child’s stay in residential care or residential school comes out of public funds, payment of the care component/daily living component of their disability benefit continues for the first 28 days that your child is in residential accommodation. After that, the payments stop. The mobility component should continue as normal.

Different rules apply if the NHS funds your child’s residential care and your child receives care under the supervision of medical staff. For DLA and Child Disability Payment, this is only an issue if the NHS meets the costs in full. However, for PIP it can be an issue where the NHS funds only part of your care costs. Seek further advice from our helpline if this applies to you.

Even if the care component/daily living component stops when your child is in a residential setting, you are still eligible for payments at a daily rate for any days that they come home. You’ll normally receive these payments in arrears after you have returned forms to the office paying your benefit confirming details of the nights your child has spent at home. The DLA Unit sometimes call these “boarders payments”.

The day your child enters residential accommodation and the day they leave both count as days at home. For example, your child goes into a residential school on a Monday and comes back on a Friday. Only Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will count as days away from home. This is a total of three days.

Short breaks and the “linking rule”

When working out whether your child’s care component or daily living component payments will stop, the “linking rule” comes into effect. This rule adds together any stays in residential accommodation separated by 28 days or fewer at home.

This means that if your child has regular short breaks in a residential setting, the number of days in each of these separate breaks are added together. Once your child has spent a total of 28 “linked days” in a residential setting, they will stop receiving the care component during any subsequent days in care. They will still get payments as normal for the days they spend at home.

The “link” breaks when your child spends a continuous period of more than 28 days (or at least 29 days) at home between these short breaks. If they go back into residential accommodation after breaking the link, they will get another 28 days in care before their daily living/care component once again stops.

Carer’s Allowance

If your child is in a residential setting, this can impact on the Carer’s Allowance paid to their main carer. This is because you need to be providing at least 35 hours a week care to your child. They also need to be receiving the care component of DLA/Child Disability Payment or daily living component of PIP/Adult Disability Payment. If you no longer meet these tests, your Carer’s Allowance will stop.

You may be able to continue getting Carer’s Allowance if your child regularly spends at least two days at home in one “benefit week”. (For Carer’s Allowance, this is Saturday midnight to the following Saturday midnight). In order to retain Carer’s Allowance, you must provide at least 35 hours care during that week. This does not have to be spread over a week. If you provide 35 hours care over a two or three day period, this should be sufficient. Time spent preparing your home for your child’s visit or cleaning up afterwards count towards the 35 hours’ care.

The benefit week runs from Saturday midnight to the following Sunday midnight. This means that the care you provide over a single weekend falls into two separate benefit weeks. If your child returns home over weekends, you are unlikely to qualify unless they come home on consecutive weekends.

If your child does come home on consecutive weekends, you can add the care you provide on the Sunday and Monday of one weekend to that provided on the Friday and Saturday of the following weekend. 

Income Support

Unless you are a lone parent with a child under five, you may stop counting as a carer for Income Support purposes. This is likely to mean your Income Support stops. If your child returns home regularly it may be possible to continue getting Income Support. This will depend on how frequently they return home. Seek further advice from our free helpline

Child Benefit

Child Benefit normally continues for a child who is in residential school. It can also continue for a child in residential care, but only if their parent continues to spend money on the child’s behalf. This can include, for example, pocket money, sweets, clothing or fares to visit. Otherwise, payments normally stop after 12 weeks in care.

Child Tax Credits

Child Tax Credit payments can continue for a disabled child who is a residential setting so long as both:

As a result, it’s common for parents to continue getting Child Tax Credit payments for a disabled child away from home in a residential setting. In some cases, the amount you get might reduce. This will depend on the rates of DLA/Child Disability Payment that your child gets.

Universal Credit

If your child is in a residential setting and is treated as “looked after” by the local authority, they will stop being treated as part of your claim. This means that you’ll stop receiving any Universal Credit payments for that child. This is the case unless they are only in care as part of a planned short break.

Your child is likely to have looked after status if they are in residential care. Some children in residential school can also have looked after status. This will depend on the reason that the local authority is funding that residential school or college placement.

If your child doesn’t have “looked after” status, you can continue to receive Universal Credit payments for them. This is so long as their temporary absence from home is expected to last for less than six months.

Once you stop being treated as a carer, you will lose a carer element from your Universal Credit award. Depending on your circumstances, you may also find that you have to look for work as a condition of getting Universal Credit.

If you are in rented accommodation, there is calculation that determines the amount of help you get with rent. This will continue to take into account your child living with you for the first six months of their absence. After that, you may get less help with rent.

Housing Benefit

The Housing Benefit rules are complex. But as a rough rule of thumb, your child should continue to be part of your claim so long as they are not “looked after” by the local authority and their absence from home is expected to last for less than 52 weeks.

If their absence is likely to last for more than 52 weeks or they are “looked after” by the local authority, they will normally stop being treated as part of your Housing Benefit claim straight away. How this will impact on the amount of Housing Benefit you get will depend on your other circumstances. so you should seek from our helpline.

Whether a child’s absence from home in a residential setting will impact on the help you get with council tax will depend on the council tax reduction rules that apply in your council’s area. Seek advice from a local advice service.

Household benefit cap exemption

Some people are exempt from the benefit cap because they have a child on DLA, PIP, Child Disability Payment or Adult Disability Payment.

You will lose that exemption if your disabled child is no longer part of your claim for Housing Benefit or Universal Credit because they are in a residential setting.

Benefits your child claims as a disabled adult

Young adults getting either Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance continue to receive these while in a residential setting. However, if social services fund their accommodation, they will use most of the these benefits to pay for their care.

We have more detailed information on how a child’s stay in a residential setting impacts on benefits. See our factsheet Benefits if your child is in residential accommodation

If your employment circumstances change

Starting a new job, changing the number of hours you work or giving up work can have a big impact on your finances. This can include changes in some of the benefits you receive.

These changes affect different benefits in different ways, and the rules can be complex. If you receive an income-related benefit such as Universal Credit, Housing Benefit or tax credits, you need individual advice. You can call our free helpline to speak to an adviser or use the Turn2Us benefit calculator on our website.

Here we look at how some of the most common benefits that earnings affect. When we talk about earnings, this can include earnings from self-employment as well as earnings as an employee.

Giving up work

If you are thinking of giving up work because of your caring role, it is important that you get advice. Your chances of being able to claim benefits as a carer will depend on a number of factors. This includes whether your child is on certain disability benefits at specific rates. If you give up work and your child is not on the relevant disability benefits, you are unlikely to get benefits as a carer.

Benefits NOT affected by work or earnings

DLA, PIP, Child Disability Payment and Adult Disability Payment

Earnings have no impact on these disability benefits. Your son or daughter can continue to receive these regardless of whether you are working or not.

Child Benefit

You’ll receive the same rate of Child Benefit regardless of whether you are working or not.

If you or your partner earns between £60,000 and £79,999 a year, higher income tax deductions will claw back some of your Child Benefit.

If you or your partner earn more than £80,000, your income tax will claw back all of the Child Benefit.

Council Tax Discount and Council Tax Disability Reduction

If you qualify for a council tax discount or a disability reduction, these can continue whether you are working or not.

However, if you get a means-tested council tax reduction, this may be lower if you have earnings.

Benefits paid both in and out of work but which earnings may affect

Carer’s Allowance

Carers can claim Carer’s Allowance if they are not working or if they work but their earnings are below £151 per week.

Only the carer’s earnings count. If you have a partner who works, their earnings do not count.

In calculating your earnings, you can make certain deductions from your gross wages. Find out more about working and Carer’s Allowance.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is the main means-tested benefit for working age families.

Both working families and families who are out of work can receive it. However, any earnings you or a partner had in the previous month will affect the amount you get.

If you have dependent children, an initial amount of your joint monthly earnings is ignored. This is your “work allowance”. It’s £673 per month or £404 pm if your Universal Credit includes help with housing costs. For every £1 of earnings you have above your work allowance, your Universal Credit award reduces by 55p.

Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit helps lower-income families with their rent. Both working families and out of work families can receive it.

Any earnings or other income that you or a partner have affects the amount of Housing Benefit you get. If you don’t already receive housing benefit, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to make a new claim. This is because in most cases, Universal Credit payments towards rent costs replaces new claims for Housing Benefit.

Tax Credits

Both out-of-work and working families can get Child Tax Credit.

You or a partner’s gross annual earnings can affect the amount of tax credits you get. This means that the amount of tax credits may go up or down if your earnings change.

If you already get Child Tax Credit and you or your partner start to work more than a certain number of hours, you may start to get Working Tax Credit payments for the first time. This will depend on both your earnings and the number of hours you or your partner are working. If you or your partner stop working or your hours drop below certain levels, you will normally lose any Working Tax Credit you get. However, you may still get Child Tax Credit.

Income Support

Income Support is a benefit for low-income carers. Universal Credit has replaced new claims for Income Support. If you already get Income Support and either you or your partner has earnings, this will affect your award.

Normally, you cannot get Income Support if you are working 16 hours or more a week, or your partner works more than 24 hours a week. Some carers can get Income Support regardless of the hours they work. Even if this applies to you, you and your partner’s earnings (except for a small amount that is disregarded) are deducted from your award.

As a result, the amount of Income Support is likely to reduce and may stop altogether. 

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Some parents with health problems may be claiming ESA. This is a benefit for adults whose health problems mean that they have a limited capability for work. Normally this benefit stops if you start working. However, special “permitted work” rules mean in certain circumstances it is possible to do some work and keep your ESA. See further advice from our helpline.

Other help

Moving into work may mean you no longer qualify for free school meals, or help with certain NHS costs. However, the rules are complex and vary depending on where in the UK you live. Call our free helpline for more details.