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Care Leavers and Benefits

Read our guide to benefits for care leavers

1. Who is a Care Leaver?

There are special rules about being able to get benefits when you are aged 16 or 17 and you are a ‘care leaver’.

You are considered to be a care leaver if:

  • 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 all in one go (but short-term, pre-planned placements in care may not count towards the 13 weeks); or
  • 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.

Stopping being a care leaver

If you have lived for six months without a break 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.

And this six month period was after the age of 16, you will not be treated as a care leaver anymore. This means the normal rules for your age group will apply to you. Use our Your Situation section to find the information that applies to you.

Reviewed: December 2021

2. Can I Claim Benefits if I am a Care Leaver?

If you are a care leaver aged under 18, even if you would otherwise meet all the qualifying conditions for the benefit, you will not be able to claim:

No one else (for example, 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.

You can still get any other benefits which may apply to you, for example Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Child Disability Payment Scotland, Adult Disability Payment Scotland or Carer’s Allowance

If you are a care leaver and you are struggling, you should ask for help from social services.

If the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says you are a care leaver and social services says you’re not a care leaver, you should get help from an adviser.


As a care leaver, you can claim Universal Credit if:

  • You have limited capability for work or you are waiting for an assessment to see if you have limited capability for work and you have a fit note from your GP saying you are not fit for work; or
  • You or your partner are responsible for a child under 16.

You won’t get the housing costs element for your rent.

It is no longer possible to make new claims for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). However, if you are a care leaver who is already getting ESA, you can carry on getting it if you carry on having limited capability for work.

It is no longer possible to make new claims for Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) but if you are already getting them, you can carry on receiving them as long as you continue to meet the conditions. 

Reviewed: May 2022

3. Other Help for Care Leavers

If you are a care leaver, you can continue getting help from social services in some cases until the age of 25. If you are in need of help, get in touch with social services to find out what support they can offer.

Care leavers under the age of 25 are exempt from the rule that single people without children under 35 can only get the shared accommodation Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate. They are entitled to the more generous one bedroom LHA rate instead.

Updated: December 2021