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Home Advice and information Big changes When your child turns 16
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When your child turns 16 or leaves education

It’s an exciting time for your child when they turn 16 or decide to leave school or college. They will probably be looking forward to gaining more independence and taking their first steps towards their future as an adult. However, for parents, this change can  be worrying as your child’s choices may affect your entitlement to benefits and tax credits. 


Moving forward, it can still be hard to keep on top of what needs to be done and when - you can sign up to our email reminder service to receive further information about:

  • Arranging your tax credits
  • Checking your benefit entitlement
  • Your housing options.

The impact on your benefits and tax credits will depend on the age of your child, and what they are planning to do now. Our interactive tool will guide you through the complexities of what you’re entitled to depending on your situation.

If your child has a disability it can be particularly difficult to navigate the benefits system. The organisation Contact a Family have resources to help, including a comprehensive guide on personal independence payment and other benefits at 16.


My child is going into further education

If your child is leaving school, staying in non-advanced education or training, is under 20 years old and enrolled on their course before their 19th birthday they are still classed as your dependent child. Therefore your benefits shouldn’t be affected – but there are still things that you’ll need to do.

What is non-advanced education or training?

This means studying for a qualification up to NVQ or SVQ level 3, GCSEs, A-levels or similar, BTEC National Diplomas, National Certificates or a 1st Diploma. It also includes Traineeships in England or Wales   and Foundation Apprenticeships  in Wales. 

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)  have more information.

Do I need to do anything about my child benefit and tax credits?

Yes, you do. Child benefit and child tax credit can continue until your child’s 20th birthday if they remain in full-time non-advanced education or approved training, as long as you inform the child benefit and tax credit offices know.

The child benefit office should write to you in your child’s last year of school to ask what they plan to do afterwards. You can let them know that your child is staying on in education by completing this online form  - you'll need your Government Gateway sign-in information to hand or you will need to set up a Government Gateway account if you don't already have one. Alternatively you can contact them by phone.

You’ll also need to inform the tax credit office. If you don’t let them know your child is staying on in education, your tax credits for them will most likely stop after they have left school. Your working tax credit isn’t affected as long as you’re still getting child tax credit.

Universal credit is a new benefit system that will replace many of the current benefits and tax credits. Since December 2014, some families with children who are claiming benefits for the first time in selected jobcentres may claim universal credit. For more information on universal credit and how it may affect your family you can visit the Gingerbread website, or call our helpline


How will this affect my housing benefit and council tax reduction?

If you receive housing benefit and council tax reduction these aren’t affected as long as you’re still getting child benefit for your child.

My child has a part-time job - does this affect my benefits?

No, they are still classed as a dependant so any income they have won’t affect your benefits.

Should I still be receiving child maintenance?

Yes, nothing changes as far as child maintenance is concerned. Your child’s other parent has a legal obligation to be paying child maintenance whilst your child is in non-advanced education, as long as they are not aged 20 or over. If you’re not receiving child maintenance, remember that you can still claim it.

You can still claim, even if you haven’t received anything in the past. You won’t be able to get any child maintenance for a past period but can start to receive it from now on.  For more information see our advice on arranging child maintenance.

My child is going to university

When your child is studying in higher education they are no longer classed as your dependant, so you won’t be entitled to get child benefit, or tax credits for them.

Usually child benefit and child tax credit continue until the end of August if your child is starting a higher education course in the September term. 


How will this affect my child benefit and tax credits?

When your child goes to university they aren’t considered to be dependent on you, so you won’t be entitled to child benefit or child tax credit for them. You will need to inform both the Child Benefit Office and the Tax Credit Office  that they’re going to university. Both benefits should stop at the end of August if your child is going to university in the September term. You could be overpaid child benefit and tax credits if you don’t report your child’s change in circumstances, and HMRC will reclaim the overpayment back from you.

If you receive working tax credits they may be affected, depending on whether you have any other dependent children. As a single parent with a dependent child you need to work 16 hours or more to be eligible for working tax credits. If you don’t have any other dependent children you must work 30 hours a week or more and have a lower income to be entitled to working tax credit, so if it is your only or youngest child going to university you may no longer be eligible. Different rules apply if you have a long term health condition or disability.

You can check what benefits you’ll be entitled to once your child goes to university on the Turn2us benefits calculator


Universal credit is a new benefit system that will replace many of the current benefits and tax credits. Since December 2014 some families with children who are claiming benefits for the first time in selected jobcentres may claim universal credit. For more information on universal credit and how it may affect your family you can visit the Gingerbread website, or call our helpline


How will this affect my housing benefit and council tax reduction?


If you’re receiving housing benefit and/or a council tax reduction you must let your local council know if your child is going to university. Your child is no longer considered to be your dependant so the amount of housing benefit and/or council tax reduction you receive may go down, depending on your income and circumstances.   Full-time students are not expected to contribute towards your rent and council tax so there won’t be a further reduction based on their income or circumstances.

If your child is moving away to study and you rent from a housing association or your local council, you might be concerned about whether you will be affected by the ‘bedroom tax’, otherwise known as the ’removal of the spare room subsidy’. This is when your housing benefit payments  are reduced if you’re deemed to have a spare room. If you are living in private rented accommodation you might be concerned about whether you are still allowed a room for your child under the ‘local housing allowance’ rules. The bedroom tax and local housing allowance rules are complex and will depend on your child’s circumstances. You could seek further advice on this from Shelter’s Housing Advice Helpline.

Am I entitled to child maintenance?

If your child goes to university you’re no longer entitled to child maintenance through the statutory system (through the Child Support Agency or the Child Maintenance Service). If you have an open case with the Child Support Agency or the Child Maintenance Service you need to let them know about the change of circumstances. If you were receiving payments for arrears owed to you before your child went to university, these should still be collected even if your child is no longer eligible for ongoing maintenance.

See our factsheets for more information on enforcing payments of child maintenance through the Child Support Agency or the Child Maintenance Service. If you have a court order for maintenance this may continue until after your child has left university – but this will depend on the terms of the order. In some limited circumstances it is possible to arrange child maintenance for university students through the courts. 


My child is leaving education

If your child is leaving education altogether, how it will affect your finances will depend on what they’re planning to do after they leave.

If your child is 16, or will be 16 by the end of the summer holidays after leaving school,  your benefits will continue at least until the end of the summer after they have left school. How your benefits are affected after that will depend on what your child is going to do afterwards.

My child is leaving education and going into work or an apprenticeship

If your child is not in full-time education and working in paid employment or completing an apprenticeship, they are not considered to be your dependant. This means your benefits for them will stop.

Once your child leaves education you will need to tell the Tax Credit Office and the Child Benefit Office. You could be overpaid child benefit and tax credits if you don’t report your child’s change in circumstances, and HMRC will reclaim the overpayment back from you.

If you receive working tax credits they may be affected, depending on whether you have any other dependent children. As a single parent with a dependent child you need to work 16 hours or more to be eligible for working tax credits. If you don’t have any other dependent children you must work 30 hours a week or more and have a lower income to be entitled to working tax credit, so if it is your only or youngest child that is leaving education you may no longer by eligible. Different rules apply if you have a long term health condition or disability.

If you’re claiming housing benefit and/or council tax reduction tell your local council straight away if your child leaves education or training and starts work. Your child is no longer considered to be your dependant so the amount of housing benefit and/or council tax reduction you receive may go down, depending on your income and circumstances. If your child is  18 or older they will be expected to give you money towards the cost of the rent and council tax based on how much they are earning. An amount will be deducted from your benefit, called a non-dependant deduction.

You’re no longer entitled to child maintenance through the statutory system (through the Child Support Agency or the Child Maintenance Service). If you have an open case with the Child Support Agency or the Child Maintenance Service you need to let them know about the change of circumstances.


My child is leaving education, but they don’t know what they’re going to do

If your child is aged 16 or 17 you can continue to get child benefit for up to 20 weeks after they have left education or training. This is called the child benefit extension period. You need to apply for a child benefit extension within three months of the date when your child’s education or training finished. The child benefit extension period lasts 20 weeks or until your child’s 18th birthday, whichever comes first. Your child must not be claiming certain benefits for themselves during this time, and must not be working for 24 hours a week or more. They will need to sign up with a careers service. You can find more information on the extension on gov.uk.

You can continue to receive child tax credit and working tax credit during the child benefit extension period. You need to notify the Tax Credit Office within three months of the date your child left education or training that they registered with a careers service. After the extension period your child tax credit will stop.

If you receive working tax credits they may be affected, depending on whether you have any other dependent children. As a single parent with a dependent child you need to work 16 hours or more to be eligible for working tax credits. If you don’t have any other dependent children you must work 30 hours a week or more and have a lower income to be entitled to working tax credit, so if it is your only or youngest child that is leaving education you may no longer by eligible. Different rules apply if you have a long term health condition or disability.

If you’re claiming housing benefit and/or council tax reduction tell your local council straight away if your child leaves education or training. Your housing benefit and council tax reduction shouldn’t be affected during the child benefit extension period (see above). When child benefit stops your child is no longer considered to be your dependant so the amount of housing benefit and/or council tax reduction you receive may go down, depending on your income and circumstances. 


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