Benefit entitlement changes at age 16 and again when a young person leaves education. One of the most important changes is the switch from children’s to adults' benefits. This happens between the ages of 16 and 20 depending on your circumstances.
We also have information about benefits for children and benefits for adults.
Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment – what changes at 16?
For adults (aged 16 and over), Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is gradually being abolished.
If you live in England, Wales or Scotland when you turn 16 you will be invited to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) instead of moving onto adult DLA.
If you live in Northern Ireland at age 16 you can still transfer onto Adult DLA as PIP has not yet been introduced in Northern Ireland.
For more information please see www.autism.org.uk/AdultDLA.
What benefits can a young person claim?
What benefits can be claimed by or for a young person depends on their circumstances.
If a young person stays in full time non-advanced education, a parent or other carer can continue claiming Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit for them up to their 19th or in some cases 20th birthday.
If a young person aged 16 or older leaves full time, non-advanced education, a parent can no longer claim Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit for them.
Full time is defined as 12 hours per week, and ‘non advanced’ includes GCSEs, A levels, NVQs and Highers in Scotland.
Once a parent has stopped claiming Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit for the young person, the young person can claim adult benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) instead. ESA is the benefit for people who are unable to work due to having a disability or health condition. It can be claimed from age 16, but only if no one is claiming Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit for the young person.
Choosing between children’s benefits and Employment and Support Allowance
Some young people, such as those getting DLA or PIP, can claim ESA whilst they are still in education. So some families with a young person in full time non-advanced education who is getting DLA or PIP can choose either to continue to claim Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit for the young person, or to claim Employment and Support Allowance instead.
It’s important to compare the amount of money that each benefit would be worth. Child Tax Credit is means tested based on the parents’ income. Employment and Support Allowance is means tested based on the young person’s income and capital. Families on a middle to high income who get no, or a reduced amount of Child Tax Credits are sometimes better off giving up the children’s benefits and claiming ESA. Families on a lower income are sometimes better off staying on Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit. This is a complex area and it is best to get welfare rights advice.
You can only ever claim either children’s or adult benefits for a person at any time. If you make a claim for Employment and Support Allowance you must make sure that the Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit payments stop, otherwise you could be overpaid.
Looking after the benefit claim of a person aged 16 and over
At age 16 the benefit system starts to treat a young person as an adult, and so the default position is that the young person has to claim and be responsible for their own benefit claims – such as Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.
There are many complex responsibilities involved in claiming a benefit, for example:
- managing money
- knowing what changes in circumstances have to be reported
- knowing how and when to report changes
- making and receiving phone calls from officials
- completing and returning forms promptly
- understanding complex letters and responding promptly.
If a person is not able to manage their own benefit claim, another adult can apply to be their ‘appointee’. An appointee is a person who is responsible for all aspects of another adult’s benefit claims. It is common for parents of a young person with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to become the appointee when the young person turns 16. Being appointee only makes you responsible for the person’s benefit claims, not any other issues.
Any government office that pays a benefit can make you appointee. The most common way of becoming appointee is by telling the Disability and Carers Service that you want to become appointee when the young person is approaching 16. If the young person is over 16 already but you feel that they need an appointee you can contact the office that pays the DLA or PIP (or any other benefit) and ask to be made the appointee.
Whenever someone asks to be made appointee for another adult, the Department of Work and Pensions will send a visiting officer to see you. The feedback we get from parents who have had these visits is positive. Parents are often worried about the visit but tell us that they are not problematic.
The visits have three functions:
- to check that the prospective appointee understands the responsibility they are taking on
- to avoid financial abuse (otherwise anyone could take over someone else’s benefit claim)
- to check that the person does lack the capacity to manage their own benefit claim.
If you feel that it is not possible for the young person to meet the visiting officer, you should explain this to the visiting officer when they contact you to arrange the visit. The only purpose of the visit is to consider making you the appointee. They are not checking or assessing the criteria for any benefit that is in payment.
Our Welfare Rights Adviser provides advice and information about benefits.