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Benefits and entitlements

This is the financial help you can get.

Benefits and entitlements change when someone turns 16. Working out the best options for your family as a whole can be a challenge. Call the Contact helpline, or speak to other specialist welfare or disability advisers, to make sure you don’t miss out.

Most benefits and entitlements come from one of two sources:

  • the UK government (through the Department of Work and Pensions or DWP, and as child benefits or tax credits through HMRC)
  • local government (through your council).

This is set to change as responsibility for some social security benefits is being transferred to the Scottish Government. A new agency will manage 11 benefits, including disability living allowance, personal independence payments and carer’s allowance. The transfer of powers should be complete by 2021.

For more information on benefits or financial support check the useful links on the right or call the Contact helpline on 0808 808 3555. Say you are calling from Scotland and an adviser will arrange a time to call you back.

How things change at age 16

From the 16th birthday, the benefit system views a young person as an adult.

They are expected to claim and manage benefits themselves and have these paid into a bank account in their name. If your young person needs help to do this, you can apply to the Department of Work and Pensions to be their appointee – if they agree, you can act on the young person’s behalf. 

Find out more about becoming an appointee.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Your young person can’t get DLA once they are 16. The Department of Work and Pensions should invite them to claim PIP instead and if they apply by the deadline they are given, their DLA payments will continue until a decision is made on their claim. If they don’t claim when asked, their DLA payments will stop. If you think they need your help to do this, you should apply to the DWP to become their appointee.

This applies to all 16-year-olds except those with a terminal illness. If your child is in hospital when they turn 16 they won’t be asked to claim PIP until they are discharged.

Where young people haven’t been receiving DLA, for example in cases of late diagnosis, they should apply directly for PIP.

Find out more about becoming an appointee.

Universal Credit.

This is a new benefit replacing most means tested benefits, including child benefit; child tax credit; employment and support allowance (ESA); housing benefit; and income support.

Your young person may be able to claim this in their own right as a young disabled adult from the age of 16, but you should check with a benefits adviser to see if this is the best option for your family as it may affect other benefits you receive.

If your young person is staying in full time, non-advanced education (usually at school or college) there is a choice.

Either they can claim universal credit in their own right, or you can continue to claim child benefit, child tax credit or universal credit payments for children. Payments for a dependent child can continue until they turn 20 (September after their 19th birthday for universal credit) or until they leave full time, non-advanced education – whichever happens first. If your son or daughter starts to receive universal credit in their own right, those payments stop immediately.

Some families are better off if they claim for their child as a dependent, but for others it’s better if the young person claims universal credit in their own right. Get advice from an independent benefits adviser before deciding.

Choices you make may impact on other benefits and the amount you receive.

If no one in your family is working, you are exempt from the UK government’s cap on benefits while you have a dependent child receiving DLA or PIP. Once a young person claims in their own right you may find the benefit cap applies and your benefits could be restricted – although you may still be exempt if you receive carer’s allowance or the carer element in universal credit. An adviser can work out the implications for you and your family.

The impact of your young person moving into work can be far reaching.

If a young person is moving into any kind of paid work, even if they are still in education, it’s worth speaking to an adviser as the benefits rules are complicated.

Finance and education.

Self directed support and PIP should continue when young people move into further or higher education. Young people receiving PIP can claim universal credit while in education, but in practice it can be complicated and may be affected by any student grants or loans. Most will have to wait several months to complete the medical assessment to establish fitness for work, and are unlikely to be paid during this time. The Contact helpline or another benefits advice service can tell you more about this.

Find out more about financing education and living away from home.

Child Benefit.

This will usually be paid up to age 16. It may continue up to age 19 if the young person is still in full time non-advanced education, but will stop if they enter a work placement programme or higher education. The rules can be complicated, so it’s best to seek advice.