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16 and 17-year-olds

Income Support when not employed or training

Although most under 18s do not have the right to benefit, some young people can claim depending upon their circumstances. But some 16 and 17-year-olds can claim Income Support and do not have to sign on for work or training.

Income Support is payable from a claimant’s 16th birthday if they are in any of the following circumstances:

  • a single parent with a child under five
  • single foster parent with a child under 16
  • a person looking after a child younger than 16 while his/her parents/guardians are temporarily away or ill
  • a person receiving Carer's Allowance for caring for someone in receipt of Attendance Allowance or the high/middle rate care components of Disability Living Allowance
  • a pregnant person who is within 11 weeks of the expected date of confinement or had a baby in the last 15 weeks
  • a qualifying young person who is on a Work Based Learning for Young People course
  • a refugee learning English for at least 15 hours a week and who has been in the UK for a year or less. Income Support is payable for up to 9 months.

How to claim

A claimant should phone the Jobcentre Plus Centre to apply on telephone number 0800 0556688.

Passport to other benefits

If a claimant gets Income Support, their partner and any dependent children qualify for:

  • free school meals
  • free Health Benefits (free prescriptions, dental, optical charges)
  • free travel to hospital for NHS treatment.

They may also be able to get a Community Care Grant or a Budgeting Loan to get a lump sum for something that cannot be met from their weekly Income Support. Young people, who may otherwise be classed as students and therefore be barred from Housing Benefit, may qualify for it if they qualify for Income Support.

Employment and Support Allowance

Once a young disabled person reaches 16, they can claim income maintenance benefits in their own right, even though they may still be at school.

If previously someone acted as an agent or appointee for benefits such as Disability Living Allowance, the need for an appointee will be reviewed once the young person reaches 16 years of age.

Who can claim?

This is a benefit paid to people aged 16 or older who cannot work because of a mental or physical disability. The rules are:

  • you have to be aged 16 but under 20 and
  • you must be present and resident in Great Britain
  • ESA can be claimed if you are in relevant education and under 20 and you study less than 21 hours a week or you study over 21 hours a week and the course that you do is one that a person of your age without you disability would not do.

ESA has two components:

Contributory allowance - This allowance replaces Incapacity Benefit and is linked to a client's National Insurance record.

Income Related Allowance - This is a means tested component of ESA and is designed to provide for basic living expenses and housing costs for a client and their partner.

1st 13 weeks (assessment phase)

During the first 13 weeks ESA is paid at a lower rate whilst the Jobcentre carries out a 'work capability assessment'. This assessment will determine whether ESA can be paid and whether a client joins the 'support group' or the 'work related activity group' from week 14, know as the Main Phase.

Work Capability Assessment is used to determine entitlement to ESA. There are three parts to this test.

  1. Limited capability for work test - This is a test that looks at physical and mental health functions.  If this test is passed then a client can remain on ESA.  If they fail it they will be advised to claim Jobseekers Allowance.
  2. Limited capability for work-related activity test - This test determines whether a client is placed in the 'support group' or the 'work related activity group'. The group that a client is based in will determine the level or ESA paid and the responsibility that they will need to meet to retain the benefit.
  3. Work focused health-related assessment – If a client is placed in the ‘work related activity group’ they will be required to take part in a ‘Work focused health related assessment’. This assessment collects additional information about the things that a client can do despite their medical condition i.e. aids and adaptations that could support a move back into work.

Week 14 + (Main Phase)

After the initial assessment phase clients will join either the 'work related activity group'.

The work related activity group

Clients in this group must adhere to strict work related conditions in order to continue to receive the full rate of ESA. This includes a series of six work-focused interviews.

The support group

Clients in this group do not have to undertake work related activities and will receive a higher level of ESA.

How do you claim?

To claim, telephone the Jobcentre Plus claim line on 0800 055 6688

Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)

16 and 17-year-olds are only entitled to Jobseekers Allowance if they are:

  • living away from their parents or another person acting in place of their parents
  • couples with children
  • those released from custody.

They must register for work and training with the careers service or Connexions service and must satisfy the basic rules of entitlement i.e.:

  • available for work
  • actively seeking work
  • have entered into a Jobseekers agreement
  • are not working 16 hours week or more
  • capable of work
  • not in full-time education
  • a resident in Great Britain.

If a claimant does not fit into one of these categories, they may still be able to get JSA for a short period, if they will suffer hardship if it is not paid. This is called Severe Hardship Direction and is usually paid for eight weeks.

Sanctions will be placed where young people refuse offers of work or training or leave training without good cause. They must phone the Jobcentre Plus Call Centre on 0845 608 8501.

The facts

  • Most under-18s not in education can only get money if they undertake training or get a job
  • Training programmes come under a variety of names like 'Modern Apprenticeships', 'Lifeskills', 'National Traineeships' or 'Work-based Training for Young People'
  • All under-18s are guaranteed a training place
  • Contact Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688 or National Career Service Helpline on  080 800 13219.

Benefits for 16 and 17 year olds leaflet

Download the Benefits for 16 and 17 year olds leaflet (pdf 89KB).

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