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

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.

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.

When can I continue to claim benefits for a dependent child?

Alongside PIP, you may be able to claim other benefits for your child. 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 help them claim 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, you can claim Child Benefit, tax credits and other payments for a young person 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 - see more below - can impact on means-tested benefits claimed by your son or daughter in their own right. 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 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 can your child choose to claim benefits in their own right?

Many young disabled people in education or training have the option of claiming benefits in their own right.

Depending on the postcode they live in they may be able to claim either Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit. However if they claim either of these benefits, or if they claim Income Support, income-based Job Seeker's Allowance or tax credits in their own right, 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.


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 any Child Tax Credit - or you only receive a small amount of Child Tax 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 payments - run the risk that they will be worse off if a young person claims benefits in their own right. The higher your tax credit payments, the less chance you will gain if your son or daughter claims in their own right.

In some circumstances, you could not only lose Child Benefit and tax credit payments, but also see a reduction in help with Housing Benefit and Council Tax. Also, some young people on Employment and Support Allowance in England lose their right to free prescriptions.


Claiming Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit for a young person

If your son or daughter wants to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit they 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 ESA. However, they will also be put through a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) medical assessment within the first three months of their claim. ESA only continues in the longer term if the DWP agrees that your child has a limited capability for work.

There are two types of ESA - contributory ESA and income-related ESA. Most young disabled people will not have sufficient national insurance contributions to get contributory ESA and will need to claim income-related ESA instead. Although students cannot normally claim income-related ESA, special rules allow you to claim if you a student who is are getting either Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Because income-related ESA is means tested, the amount your child gets will depend on if they have other income or any capital above £6,000. See our guide to PIP and other benefits at 16 for more information about ESA.

If your child lives in an area where income-related ESA has been replaced by Universal Credit, 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. The problem is that it can take several months for someone to be assessed as having a limited capability for work, so there is likely to be a lengthy delay before Universal Credit payments start.


Getting Employment Support Allowance or 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 ESA or 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 ESA in order to access the vulnerable student's 16-19 bursary, the fact that they start to receive ESA 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?

If you claim Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit for your child as a dependant, they are always paid to either you or your partner.

From the age of 16, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will usually be paid directly to your son or daughter. Also, if they claim Employment and Support Allowance or any other benefits as a young adult (see below), these will usually be paid to them rather than to you.

The only exception 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 as their appointee.

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

If your child is temporarily unable to attend their course then you may still be able to get child benefit and tax credits for them. Call our free helpline for advice about claiming benefits during a temporary interruption in education.

However, 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 what benefits they might be able to claim 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 then you will no longer be able to claim benefits or tax credits for them. 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 what benefits they may be able to claim as a disabled worker.

If you have a disabled son or daughter who is not in education, training or work then they should be able to claim either Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit. Which of these two options is available will depend on their postcode area and whether this is part of the Universal Credit 'full service'.

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