Changes in circumstances

17 mins read

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

In this article

If 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 if you have been refused benefit in the past.

If your child already gets Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Child Disability Payment or Adult Disability Payment, but their circumstances have changed and they now need more help, it may be possible to get their award increased. 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.

Any decision (including a decision that was made by an appeal tribunal) can be looked at again. 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 in the normal way.

If your child’s award is increased to the highest rate for personal care or the enhanced rate of daily living, this may mean that you 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 is increased in this way.  

Children turning three years old

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

Sometimes the DLA Unitor 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 to ask that they have another look at the award and whether they now qualify for the mobility component. Before doing this it is a good idea to discuss their needs with an adviser to 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 the age of 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.


If you have an existing award of DLA, PIP, Child Disability Payment or Adult Disability Payment, and you ask for it to be looked at again, this can result in an award increasing, staying the same or reducing. Because of the risk of benefit being reduced, it is always best to first discuss your child’s case with an adviser before deciding whether to ask for a supersession. 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 for help with getting around reduces, this may mean that the rate of DLA, PIP, Child Disability Payment or Adult Disability Payment that they get should drop. You are expected to 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

The benefits that you receive for your child can be affected by overnight stays away from home in a residential school, or in residential care. (Different rules apply to stays in hospital. You can find out more about the hospital rules in our factsheet, DLA and children 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.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Child Disability Payment and Adult Disability Payment

If your child’s stay in residential care or residential school is paid from 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 are suspended. The mobility component should continue as normal.

Different rules apply if your child’s residential care is funded by the NHS and they receive care under the supervision of medical staff. For DLA and Child Disability Payment this is only an issue if the costs are met by the NHS 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 is suspended when your child is in a residential setting, you are still entitled to payments at a daily rate for any days that they come home. These payments are normally made in arrears after you have returned forms to the office paying you benefit confirming details of the nights your child has spent at home. The DLA Unit sometimes call these ‘boarders payments’.

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

Short breaks and DLA / PIP / Child Disability Payment / Adult Disability Payment

When working out whether your child’s care component or daily living component payments will stop, it is important to know that any stays in residential accommodation that are separated by 28 days or less at home will be added together. This is known as the ‘linking rule’.

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

If at any point your child spends a continuous period of more than 28 days (or at least 29 days) at home inbetween these short breaks, the ‘link’ is broken. If they go back into residential accommodation after breaking the link, they will be allowed another 28 days in care before their daily living/care component is once again suspended.

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, and they also need to be getting payments of 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 still be able to continue getting Carer’s Allowance if your child regularly spends at least two days or more at home in one ‘benefit week’. A benefit week for Carer’s Allowance runs from 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. And time spent preparing your home for your child’s visit or cleaning up afterwards count towards the 35 hours’ care.

Because the benefit week runs from Saturday midnight to the following Sunday midnight, the care you provide over a single weekend is divided between two separate benefit weeks. If your child returns home over weekends you are unlikely to qualify unless he or she is comes home on consecutive weekends.

If your child does come home on consecutive weekends, this will allow you to 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 aged under five, you may stop being treated 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, 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 to be paid for a disabled child who is a residential setting so long as:

As a result, it’s common for parents to continue getting Child Tax Credit payments for a disabled child who is away from home in a residential setting. Although you might continue to get tax credits for a child in residential school or residential care, in some cases the amount paid 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 unless they are only in care as part of a planned short break. This means that you’ll stop receiving any Universal Credit payments for that child.

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 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 are asked to look for work as a condition of getting Universal Credit. If you are in rented accommodation, the amount of help you get with rent continues to be calculated as if your child was still 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 complicated. But as a rough rule of thumb, your child should continue to be treated as 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 straightaway. 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

If the only reason that you are exempt from the household benefit cap is because you 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 treated as 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

If your son or daughter is a young adult and gets either Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance, they will continue to receive these benefits while in a residential setting. However, if social services fund their accommodation, most of the benefits they receive will be used to pay charges for the care they receive.

For 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.

Different benefits are affected 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 are likely to 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 are affected by earnings.When we talk about earnings,this can include earnings from self-employment as well as earnings as an employee.

If you are effected by the coronavirus outbreak and have had to stop working, see our webpage on coronavirus and welfare benefits for details of specific types of financial help such as the Coronavirus Job Support Scheme and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. 

Giving up work

If you are thinking of giving up work because of your caring role,it is important that you get detailed advice. Your chances of being able to claim benefits as a carer will depend on a number of factors, including 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 likely to find that you are refused benefits as a carer.

Benefits NOT affected by work or earnings

Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Child Disability Payment and Adult Disability Payment

None of these disability benefits are affected by earnings. Your son or daughter can continue to receive these regardless of whether you are working or not.

Child Benefit

Child Benefit is paid at the same rate regardless of whether you are working or not. However, if you or your partner earns between £50,000 and £59,999 a year, some of your Child Benefit is clawed back through higher income tax deductions. If you or your partner earns more than £60,000, all of the Child Benefit is clawed back through income tax.

Council Tax Discount and Council Tax Disability Reduction

If you qualify for either a council tax discount or a disability reduction, these can continue regardless of whether you are working or not. However, if you get a means-tested council tax reduction, this may be reduced if you have earnings.

Benefits that can be paid both in and out of work but which may be affected by your earnings

Carer’s Allowance

Carer’s Allowance can be paid to carers who are not working or who do work but who have earnings below £132 per week. Only the carer’s earnings are counted. If you have a partner who works, their earnings are ignored.

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. It can be paid both to working families and to families who are out of work. However, the amount of Universal Credit that you get is affected by any earnings that you or a partner have had in the previous month.

If you have dependent children, an initial amount of your joint monthly earnings is ignored. This is known as your ‘work allowance’ and is £573 per month (£344 pm if your Universal Credit includes help with housing costs). For every £1 of earnings you have above your work allowance, 55p is deducted from your Universal Credit award.

Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit helps lower-income families with their rent. It can be paid to both working families and out of work families. The amount of Housing Benefit that you get is affected by any earnings or other income that you or a partner have. If you do not already receive housing benefit it is unlikely that you will be able to make a new claim. This is because in most cases new claims for Housing Benefit have been replaced by Universal Credit payments towards rent costs.

Tax Credits

Child Tax Credit is paid to both out-of-work and working families. The amount of tax credits you get can be affected by you or a partner’s gross annual earnings. 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 (although different rules apply to temporary drops in hours during the Covid outbreak). However, you may still get Child Tax Credit.

Income Support

Income Support is a benefit for low-income carers. It has been replaced by Universal Credit for new claims. If you already get Income Support, your award will be affected if either you or your partner has earnings.

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, but 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, there are special ‘permitted work’ rules that 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.