Young People and Benefits

If you are aged under 18 (or under 20 in some circumstances), there may be extra rules to meet to get benefits. If you cannot get benefits in your own right, someone else, such as a parent or guardian, may be able to claim amounts for you within the benefits they get.

Care leavers

There are special rules if you are aged 16 or 17 and one of the following applies to your situation:

  • You have been looked after by a local authority for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14 and you left care on or after your 16th birthday. The 13 weeks do not have to be continual (but short-term, pre-planned placements in care may not count towards the 13 weeks)
  • You were in hospital, a remand centre or a young offenders (or similar) institution when you became 16, and immediately before then you had been looked after by a local authority for at least 13 weeks since your 14th birthday.
  • If you fall under these special rules, even if you would otherwise meet all the qualifying conditions for the benefit, you will not be able to claim:
  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Housing Benefit (HB England, Scotland and Wales) / (HB Northern Ireland)
  • Universal Credit, except in limited circumstances
  • No one else (e.g. a parent/guardian) can receive any extra money in their benefits for you either

This is because social services have the responsibility for meeting your needs for maintenance, accommodation and support and so you are excluded from receiving benefits which cover the same things. However, you are not prevented from claiming any other benefits which may apply to you.


As a care leaver, you can claim Employment and Support Allowance if you have limited capability for work and meet the other qualifying conditions.

You can also get Universal Credit if you (or your partner if you have one) is responsible for a dependent child or if you have limited capability for work. However, you cannot get the housing costs element of Universal Credit for your rent.

Even if you fall under these special rules, you are not excluded from claiming Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance if you are a lone parent or, in some circumstances, if you are ill/have disabilities. You cannot however claim Housing Benefit.

You are also not excluded from claiming Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and Housing Benefit if you have lived for a continuous period of six months or more with:

  • your parent, or
  • someone who has parental responsibility for you, or
  • someone who has a residence order for you, if that order was in place immediately before a care order was made for you.

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