If you are supporting a child who is approaching adulthood, it’s not always easy to navigate your way through the transition over from them being financially dependent on you, to them having their own financial independence and their own benefit claims. We’ve put together this blog with some key points you may need to consider when your child reaches the age of 16.

Does your child need to claim Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is normally only available to people of working age (this usually means over the age of 18) however, it is possible to claim Universal Credit as a 16 or 17-year-old if:

  • Fit notes are being provided to Universal Credit from when the claim is submitted or;
  • That 16 or 17-year-old already has limited capability for work status when they come to claim Universal Credit
  • The 16 or 17-year-old must also meet the general criteria such as being resident in the UK and having no more than £16000 in savings

(Fit notes are a brief, standard form that can be issued by your child’s GP surgery; these are used to verify that someone has health conditions that impact their capability for work).

When your child claims Universal Credit, they stop being your dependent child, so any child benefit, child tax credits and other benefits you receive in relation to them will stop being paid to you after their Universal Credit has been submitted. You may need to use a benefits calculator to weigh up whether it is better for your household for your child to stay part of your benefit claims for as long as possible, or whether them claiming Universal Credit in their own right would be more beneficial.

If you are a Universal Credit claimant….

If your child remains in non-advanced education beyond the age of 16, and if they don’t claim Universal Credit, then you can continue to receive the child element of Universal Credit for them until the September after their 19th birthday (they are what is known as a ‘qualifying young person’ during this period).

Is your child going to continue in education?

Things can get more complicated if you wish to help your child claim Universal Credit, but they also plan to remain in education. The general rule is that Universal Credit can’t be paid to those who are ‘receiving education’.

What does ‘receiving education’ mean?

  • A qualifying young person (remember, this is someone aged between 16 and 19 (up to the September after their 19th birthday) and in non-advanced or approved training for more than 12 hours per week).
  • On a course that is classed as full-time, advanced education.
  • On any course where a loan or grant is provided for maintenance.
  • On any other course that is incompatible with the work search requirements associated with a Universal Credit claim.

What about children who are older and still in non-advanced education?

Children who are older than 19, and who are in non-advanced education, should be able to claim Universal Credit because their situation does not fall within the definition of ‘receiving education’. They could potentially run into issues however, if the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) were to decide that the requirements of their course were incompatible with the requirements that need to be met as part of a Universal Credit claim.

Special rules for disabled children who remain in education.

It is possible to claim Universal Credit for your disabled child even when they are ‘receiving education’ if:

  • They are receiving Personal Independence Payment or Disability Living Allowance and
  • They have Limited Capability for Work status and
  • Limited Capability for Work status was established before they started their course which meant they were ‘receiving education’.

But you might ask…how can Limited Capability for Work status be established before a Universal Credit claim is submitted? Your answer is potentially…

New style Employment Support Allowance (ESA)

This is a benefit linked to a person’s National Insurance (NI) contributions, and in order to receive payments of new style ESA you need to have paid a certain amount of NI, however, it is possible to claim new style ESA on a ‘credits only’ basis, and doing this helps to boost and preserve the Claimant’s NI record.

By applying for this benefit for your child when they reach 16, it also means that they can go through the Limited Capability for Work assessment process and get Limited Capability for Work status established before they go onto start their course. This then means they are ‘receiving education’ for the purposes of Universal Credit and before they submit their claim for Universal Credit. In doing this, it means that they can go on to claim Universal Credit as a disabled student, regardless of their course type because they will then already have Limited Capability for Work status established before they claim.

A claim for new style ESA and getting Limited Capability for Work established in advance, can also prevent the DWP raising any issues around course and Universal Credit compatibility.

Claiming new style ESA

If your child has capacity: claims can be submitted online via this link New Style Employment and Support Allowance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

If they do not have capacity and you act as their DWP Appointee, claims can be submitted via the phone line 0800 055 6688 (chose option 4)

My child is receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – what will happen to that when they turn 16?

When your child turns 16, if they are in receipt of DLA, they should be invited to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) instead. The DWP will write to your child when they would like them to complete a claim for PIP. PIP is assessed using different criteria and is paid at different rates so it might be that your child will be better off by claiming PIP. For this reason, it is a good idea to ensure that you contact the DWP if your child hasn’t received their invite to claim PIP when they turn 16 or very soon after.

We have had many clients whose children secure a place at a residential school or a college that provides education to those with disabilities. Often families in this situation are worried about what will happen to their child’s benefits when they move away from home to commence their placement at residential school.

This a complicated area and whether or not your child will be able to keep their benefits if they move to residential school depends on a number of factors, such as, how the placement is being funded, for example.

Contact, one of charities we work with, has some excellent resources relating to this subject available on their website, which can be found here.

How can Renaissance Legal help?

At Renaissance Legal, our Benefits experts can assist with a wide range of benefits queries, including this topic.

If you need help with understanding your child’s benefit entitlements and their access to benefits as they get older or as circumstances change, then please do get in touch at benefits@renaissancelegal.co.uk or give our team a call on 01273 610611.





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Nicola Spruce

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