Benefit entitlement changes at age 16 and again when you leave 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.

Personal Independence Payment

If you currently get Disability Living Allowance (DLA), you'll be invited to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) when you turn 16.

Child benefit and Child Tax Credit

If you stay in full time non-advanced education, your parent or carer can carry on claiming Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit for you up to your 19th, or in some cases 20th, birthday.

If you are 16 or older and you leave full time, non-advanced education, your parent or carer can no longer claim Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit for you.

Full time is defined as 12 hours per week, and ‘non advanced’ includes GCSEs, A levels, NVQs and Highers in Scotland.

Employment and Support Allowance

Once you are 16, you can claim adult benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). 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 you.

You or your parent/carer should get advice about whether your household would be better or worse off if you claim Employment and Support Allowance.

Carer's Allowance

Carer's Allowance is a benefit for people who spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a child or adult who is receiving certain disability benefits. You do not have to live with or be related to that person. It does not depend on NI contributions, but it is taxable. There is a cap on how much you can earn from work and still be entitled to Carer’s Allowance.


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.

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 autistic person 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 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.

Get benefits advice


Last reviewed 08 February 2018