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Young People and benefits

If you are aged under 18 (or under 20 in some circumstances), there may be extra rules to meet to get benefits. If you cannot get benefits in your own right, someone else, such as a parent or guardian, may be able to claim amounts for you within the benefits they get.

1. Care leavers

There are special rules if you are aged 16 or 17 and one of the following applies to your situation:

  • You have been looked after by a local authority for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14 and you left care on or after your 16th birthday. The 13 weeks do not have to be continual (but short-term, pre-planned placements in care may not count towards the 13 weeks)

  • You were in hospital, a remand centre or a young offenders (or similar) institution when you became 16, and immediately before then you had been looked after by a local authority for at least 13 weeks since your 14th birthday.

If you fall under these special rules, even if you would otherwise meet all the qualifying conditions for the benefit, you will not be able to claim:

No one else (e.g. a parent/guardian) can receive any extra money in their benefits for you either.

This is because social services have the responsibility for meeting your needs for maintenance, accommodation and support and so you are excluded from receiving benefits which cover the same things. However, you are not prevented from claiming any other benefits which may apply to you.

Exceptions

As a care leaver, you can claim Employment and Support Allowance if you have limited capability for work and meet the other qualifying conditions.

You can also get Universal Credit if you (or your partner if you have one) is responsible for a dependent child or if you have limited capability for work. However, you cannot get the housing costs element of Universal Credit for your rent.

Even if you fall under these special rules, you are not excluded from claiming Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance if you are a lone parent or, in some circumstances, if you are ill/have disabilities. You cannot however claim Housing Benefit.

You are also not excluded from claiming Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance and Housing Benefit if you have lived for a continuous period of six months or more with:

  • your parent, or

  • someone who has parental responsibility for you, or

  • someone who has a residence order for you, if that order was in place immediately before a care order was made for you.

 

Updated: May 2018

2. Ill or disabled young people

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

You can claim Employment and Support Allowance if you have limited capability for work and meet the other qualifying conditions for the benefit

However, you cannot usually get Employment and Support Allowance if you are studying in relevant education or if you are a full-time student – see our Studying (aged 16+) section for more information.

You can qualify for Employment and Support Allowance in education though if you receive Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment

From your 16th birthday you may be able to claim Personal Independence Payment.(PIP) for yourself (instead of a parent/guardian claiming for you) if you have care and/or mobility needs. It can be paid on top of any other benefits you receive.

3. Young carers

If you are aged 16+ and are caring at least 35 hours a week for a person who is ill or has disabilities, you may qualify for Carer’s Allowance and/or Income Support. There are certain other conditions you must fulfil, such as not being in full-time work or education, so you should check the rules of entitlement for each benefit to see if you qualify. You may also be eligible for other forms of help as well – see our Carers section.

4. Young people in education

Advanced education

If you are attending a course of advanced education, see our Studying (aged 16+) section for information about the rules relating to benefits while studying.

Relevant education

Most young people who are in relevant education are prevented from claiming benefits. However, you may be able to claim Income Support if your income is low enough and you:

  • Have a child for whom you receive Child Benefit

  • Are a student from abroad whose funds from abroad are temporarily disrupted (you’ll only get benefit for a maximum of six weeks)

  • Are a refugee learning English

  • Are an orphan and have no-one acting for you in place of your parents

  • You have left local authority care and live away from your parents or any person acting in their place

(but see the special rules for care leavers)

  • You have to live away from your parents and any person acting in their place and either:

    • you are estranged from them or would be in danger if you lived with them

    • they cannot support you because they are in prison or unable to come to the UK

    • they are sick or have disabilities

If you cannot claim benefits for yourself while you are in relevant education because you do not fall into one of the groups described above, your parents/guardian may be able to continue getting benefits for you as their child.

In some limited situations, you may have entitlement to benefits in your own right and your parent/guardian may also have entitlement to benefits such as Child Benefit for you at the same time. What you claim can have an effect on the benefits that your parent/guardian can claim.

For example, Maria claims Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit for her daughter Louise, who is aged 16 and in relevant education. Louise gives birth to a son, Charlie. If Louise claims Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit for Charlie, Maria could still get Child Benefit for Louise, but will lose Child Tax Credit for her. If Louise claims Income Support, then Maria will also lose her Child Benefit.

If you are in this situation, you should seek advice about what would be the best choice from a local benefits adviser. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a local one.

5. Young people in work

If you are a young person and are working, you may qualify for Working Tax Credit (WTC) if you:

  • work 16 hours or more a week, and

  • are on a low income, and

  • are responsible for a child, or

  • have a disability that puts you at a disadvantage in getting a job and be getting certain disability benefits (or did so before you started work).

If you're in a couple and you are responsible for a child, you usually have to work 24 hours a week between you, with one of you working at least 16 hours a week, to get WTC.

6. Young people looking for work

If you are unemployed, you may qualify for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) if you can show that you are available for and actively seeking work.

If you are under 18, you will probably not have paid sufficient national insurance contributions to qualify for contribution-based JSA, but you may qualify for income-based JSA if your income is low enough. However, in addition to satisfying the normal rules of entitlement you must also fall within one of the following groups:

  • You are one of a couple and you have a child who is aged under 16

  • You are within a 20-week period of having left education/training (and sometimes for up to eight weeks afterwards) and one of the following conditions applies

  • you are married/in a civil partnership. Your partner must either be aged over 18 or aged under 18 and satisfy certain conditions (Seek further advice from a benefits adviser if this applies to you.

You can use our Find an Adviser tool.

  • you are an orphan with no-one acting for you in place of your parent

  • you are living away from your parents and anyone acting in their place and certain other conditions apply (seek further advice)

  • You are within the first 13 weeks of being laid off or on short time work

  • You are waiting to be enlisted into the armed forces.

If you do not fall within any of the above groups, while you are under 18 you can only qualify for income-based JSA if you can show you are in ‘severe hardship’.

Remember that if you are a care leaver, you may not qualify for income-based JSA at all, even if you would otherwise meet the entitlement conditions.

For all types of JSA, if you are claiming while you are under 18 you will normally have to register for work and training in order to be eligible.

7. Young people with a child

You should qualify for Child Benefit as there is no minimum age limit to claim this. You may also qualify for Child Tax Credit if you are aged at least 16 and your income is low.

There are a range of other benefits and assistance available for people with children which you may qualify for depending on your circumstances – see our Expecting a child section and our Bringing up a child section for more information.

 

8. Young people with housing costs

Rent

If you are renting accommodation and are finding it difficult to pay your rent, you may qualify for Housing Benefit (HB England, Scotland and Wales) and  (HB Northern Ireland).

You must be paying rent under a commercial agreement. You cannot get Housing Benefit if you live with your landlord and they are a close relative, e.g. your parents.

Housing Benefit is means tested so whether you qualify for it will depend on your income and circumstances. You can still claim even if you are working full time.

As a young person you will probably find that your Housing Benefit is restricted to the cost of living in accommodation with shared facilities.

There is no minimum age limit to claim Housing Benefit, but you must be able to show you have a legal liability to pay rent, which may be difficult if you are under 16.

Remember that if you are a care leaver, you may not qualify for  Housing Benefit at all, even if you would otherwise meet all entitlement rules.

Council Tax

If you are on a low income and liable to pay Council Tax you may be able to claim help with your Council Tax through Council Tax Support. However, if you are aged under 18 you will not be liable for Council Tax.

If you are a full-time student in advanced education, you may not be able to claim Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support unless you fall within a certain category – see our Studying (aged 16+) section. There are no rules preventing you from claiming Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support if you are in relevant education or if you are under 21 and studying on a course below degree level which you started before you were 19.