Once they reach sweet 16, the choices our children make could affect the benefits that we receive. Find out what benefits for 16 year olds are available to make sure you don't lose out.
A reader asked us about benefits for older children that we're looking to answer here. As usual with the subject of benefits, the question is far more straightforward than the answer can ever be!
Available benefits for 16 year olds depend on each specific benefit as well as on the choices that your child makes, for example which educational courses, internships or apprenticeships they choose to pursue.
Child benefit and tax credits are affected by your child's choices
Child benefit is paid automatically until your child reaches 16. The choice your child then makes will determine whether you'll continue to receive it for up to four more years, and also whether you'll keep getting tax credits for having children.
Regardless of your child's choice, you might still be entitled to some tax credits for other reasons, such as having a low income.
Your child does nothing, goes in to work or claims benefits
If your child can't decide what direction to take, takes time off, goes in to work, or starts claiming income-related benefits, all the benefits payments you receive that are directly related to your child will cease.
If your child starts working 24 hours or more per week, the benefits will stop immediately. Otherwise, they might be paid for a few extra weeks or even months. The cut-off point will be the earliest of the following:
- 28 (or 29) February
- 31 May
- 31 August
- 30 November
If your child stays in full-time education
If your child continunes in full-time education or training and takes up paid employment on top, you're still entitled to child benefit. You could continue to get child benefit and tax credits for having children if your child stays on in full-time education at 16 to do:
- A levels
- Advanced Highers and below
- BTEC National Diploma, National Certificate or First Diploma
- NVQ level 3 and below
- SCE higher grade
- SVQ level 3 and below
Similar sorts of full-time education, below higher education such as HND/HNC, might be considered, but the child must be getting supervised study, tuition and exams for at least 12 hours per week on average. This doesn't include unsupervised study.
Educational courses that don't count
Higher level courses don't count, and so child benefit and tax credit for having children will stop. These courses include:
- Bachelors degree
- BTECT Higher National Certificate or Higher National Diploma
- Diploma of Higher Education
- NVQ level 4
- Teacher training
Apprenticeships and internships
If your child is going to be paid a wage, that's a clear sign that you can no longer get child benefit or tax credits for having children. Work-based training schemes, including apprenticeships and internships, forming part of a job contract don't count.
However, this doesn't mean no benefits for 16 year olds! Some other training schemes are approved and your child might even be allowed a training allowance without it affecting your benefits and tax credits. Your child might even be allowed to claim income support on top.
These training schemes aim to raise a child's employability or prepare them for apprenticeships, or other education.
In England, your child will need to enlist on a Foundation Learning programme or an Access to Apprenticeships course.
Scotland's similar programmes are called Get Ready For Work and Skillseekers.
Parents of children in Wales who go for a Foundation Apprenticeship or Traineeship can also continue to get benefits and tax credits, providing the positions are unwaged.
In Northern Ireland, the courses must be Jobskills and Training for Success, including Programme-led Apprenticeships.
How to claim child benefit and tax credits at 16+
If your child is continuing on an approved course, you can claim tax credits in the normal way when your child turns 16.
It's different for child benefit. Until now, you have received this benefit automatically. As your child approaches 16, the Child Benefit Office will write to you, asking you to return a form explaining what your child's plans are.
When you know the answer, you should respond to see if you're entitled to continue receiving child benefit.
Disability living allowance
In addition to the main child-related benefits, we also need to consider some of the other main benefits that you might be concerned about once your child turns 16.
You might have been claiming disability living allowance for your disabled child. At 16, the child will still be entitled to it and could now make a claim for this for him or herself.
However, if your child stays in education or training as outlined above, you could also keep claiming.
It makes no difference to your child benefits and tax credits who claims the disability living allowance.
It doesn't matter what choices your child makes, you'll no longer be entitled to childcare vouchers by the 1 September after your child's 15th birthday, or the 16th birthday if your child is disabled.
While your child is under 18, your housing benefit shouldn't be affected.
Council tax credit
At age 15, or 16 if your child is disabled, your council tax credits might be reduced, regardless of what your child decides to do next. However, if you remain on a low income, you should continue to get the full council tax benefit.
If you've been entitled to guardian's allowance and you remain entitled to child benefit when your child reaches 16, you'll also remain entitled to this allowance.
Getting an extension
If your child is 16 or 17 and registers with some qualifying bodies for other training or employment, you can ask for child benefit to be extended by an extra 20 weeks.
In England, the qualifying bodies are the local careers service or Connexions. In Scotland and Wales it's the local careers service. In Northern Ireland it's the careers service at the Department for Employment and Learning, or the Education and Library Board.
You can also apply for a 20-week extension if your child has applied for a Ministry of Defence position, for example to join the armed forces.
The extension will end early if your child turns 18 or starts working for 24 hours or more per week.
We hope this article is useful to the reader who asked about benefits for 16 year olds! For any further clarifications, please comment below and we'll do our best to find the answers for you.