Benefits for all children and QYPs

Tuesday 03 March 2020

Part 2 of 3 blogs looking at Benefits for children and young people (YPs) . This time, we  looking at the specific benefits that can apply to all children, regardless of household finances , along with some extra support for families on lower incomes or  whose finances may be temporarily affected by the impacts of a cancer diagnosis. 

Welcome to part two of three benefit blogs looking at looking at benefits for children and young people. You can find links to the others in the Further reading and links section at the end of this blog. In

  • Part 1, we looked at who  counts as a "child" or "qualifying young person (QYP)" for benefits purposes. Children under 16 is straightforward but complication, choices and restriction complicate things post-16 and there can be choices re staying on a parents claim or claiming in own right. And as for those becomeing students...a light touch on confusing years. 
  • Here in Part 2, we move on to look at the key benefits affecting all children and QYPs , including the extra means tested ones that may kick in if family income is affected by someone in the household having cancer. 
  • Next time, in Part 3, we will  move on to look at extra amounts  - both means tested and not - that can apply when it's a child or young person who has received that cancer diagnosis. 

So, this blog focuses on these two sorts of support -and the specific benefits within them - that can apply to all children:

  • non-means tested benefits - paid regardless of income or savings include:  Child Benefit (CB) –  the main one, and which can be one of the simplest benefits in the book, but...  And also an additional amount called Guardian's Allowance,  which can apply in certain situations. 
  • means tested benefits - paid as a top up, when income is low or is temporarily reduced by the impacts of cancer on family finances. These are changing : From 2004, anounts for children in the different means tested benefits  were drawn together into a single Child Tax Credit (CTC) . This has mostly stopped for new claims. Instead, people of "working age" will claim amounts for children within  Universal Credit (UC) instead, while those over "pension age" do so within Pension Credit (PC).  However, there many adults still receiving CTC, who will gradually switch over to UC or PC, by September 2024 (the latest DWP estimate). 

For all of the benefits below , a child is someone under 16  and a QYP is someone aged 16 to 20 who is staying on in either "relevant education" or "approved training" . Relevant means non advanced (i.e. -up to A level or equivalent). So, you can claim for a 19 year old still doing A levels, but not for a 17 year old off to Uni.   There are some differences though in in the criteria in each benefit for whether they have to be living with you and as to when a claim stops in leaving education.

Child Benefit

The chances are that a parent - or any other person over 16 stepping in to act as a parent  - will have  already been getting Child Benefit (CB) before cancer came like a bolt out of the blue. The basic idea is simple  -if you have a child – or “qualifying young person” (QYP) - you can have the benefit have benefit. But it can present the odd complication

How do I claim CB? 

If you are not getting it already - perhaps you are taking over care of a child or qualifying young person - you complete a fairly straightforward  claim form - see the link below. You can backdate a claim for up to 3 months 

It can get complicated if there is a dispute between and two different people want to claim. If you can't agree HMRC will decide. Even if you can, transfers from one person to the other can take time. Other issues relate to time away or in care, after 8 weeks. Get advice in these situations

Who can I claim for:

Unlike the other benefits below, a child doesn't have to be living with you for you to claim CB. You simply have to be responsible for that child or young person . That meaind either that :

  • the child or young person does normally lives with you (but they can be away for periods ); or 
  • you are regularly contributing to the maintenance of the child / QYP,  by at least the value of Child Benefit, even if they usually live elsewhere

That last point may be useful when a child /QYP stays in two different places (eg when partners have split up) . On can claim the CB (for contributing) and the other could claim the other benefits (for the child counting as living with them) . In practise, though, the other benefits cope better if it's the same person claims both, but some do find the CB option to split the payments works for them. 

How much is Child Benefit:

In the year April 2020/2021, the amounts of CB are rising for the first time in many years. The rates will be:

  • £21.05  for the first child or qualifying young person; and
  • £13.95 for each and every other child / QYP. 

Note, that the "two child " policy - see below - does not apply to Child Benefit, so every child counts for CB.

When does Child Benefit end?

Each of the benefits puts it slightly differently in terms of when benefit stops for a child leaving education or training. For Child Benefit the sequence works like this: 

  • HMRC contact the CB claimant as a young person reaches 16 , with a form to complete once plans post-16 are known. This may still be undecided and it will depend on necessary grades, so the form doessn't have to be completed straightaway. 
  • the child will be treated as a qualifying young person until the 1st September of the year in which they turn 16. This is known as the CB terminal date, and will be when CB ends if education ends
  • there are similar terminal dates later on when a QYP ends their course . As this may not always be at end of a summer term then tit will be the next one out of : the last day in February, 31st May, £1st August or 30th November after a QYP ends their education.
  • However -  importantly for QYPs who may need to take time out - e.g. because of cancer treatment, the emotional impacts of a sibling or parent going through this or another other good reason  - they can carry on being  treated as being a QYP for up to 6 months for any good reason - or indefinitely for a health related one - if they are intending to resume that course.
  • For 16 and 17 year olds - who normally have very limited abilities to claim benefits in their own right, there is some extra time allowed that carries on after the terminal date. This is called the Child Benefit Extension Period. It starts from the end of the course and any exams have been taken and carries on for 20 weeks. So it's not an extra 20 weeks in total as some of that time is within the normal terminal date, but it typically means an extra 2 to 3 months for the young person to get sorted. 

Guardians Allowance 

.This is effectively an extra amount paid on top of Child benefit in certain circumstances. While CB doesn't have to be claimed by parents - e.g. it could be claimed by another relative, an adoptive parent or an older sibling - these "acting parents" are by no means always "guardians" for the purposes if this allowance.

Essentially the extra allowance applies either:

  • when both parents have died; or
  • one parent has died and the whereabouts of the other is unknown or they are in prison. 

There is a slightly looser rule when the situation involves adoptive parents, so do get advice. While an increasing majority of parents with cancer survive, some may not and it can happen that someone else may need to step in to act as parent. They would then be able claim the additional Guardian's Allowance - worth £17.90 a week - on top of  the Child Benefit. 


Extra "means tested" support for children/ QYPs

While Child Benefit may have all been sorted when a child first joined a family, changes in financial circumstances may mean either that a parent or acting parent could qualify for extra means tested help for the first time or might get an increase in the amount of help that they may have already been receiving.

That help is changing:

  • most new claims will be through child elements within a claim for Universal Credit (UC). Or in the case of a claim by grandparent, these same UC amounts within a claim for Pension Credit (PC)
  • however the majority of people getting this help are still doing so via a separate Child Tax Credit (CTC) . In time these claims  will all transfer over to child amounts within Universal Credit (UC) or Pension Credit (PC) . This can happen now if circumstances change,  but a more organised switching process was due to start in late 2020 and be completed by September 2024. 


Child Tax Credit

CTC is part of  an overall claim for  tax credits rather than a seperate benefit. A tax credit claim  can include either or both of:

  • Working Tax Credit (WTC) - for those with low or temporarily reduced earnings – whether for parents, workers with long term health issues (such as cancer) and some people with neither children nor disabilities ; and
  • Child Tax Credit (CTC) that unified previous help for children into one benefit, regardless of whether the parent(s) are in paid work or not

The fact that these are two different parts of the same claim means that e.g.  someone who was working and has their first child can still have CTC added to their tax credit claim. And similarly, someone who was out of work and getting CTC, but then moves into work, can still have WTC added to their current tax claim. 

Official advice may wrongly suggest such changes of circumstances mean an early switch over to UC, when in fact you have a choice. Switching could be a good idea but it could also or it be very unhelpful, both in financial terms and the different ways the new benefits work. Do get advice before switching, as once done you can't switch back. In time switching will have to happen but those "managed migrations" come without any protection should you lose out under the new UC sums.

One area where UC might pay rather is in relation to extra amounts for children and QYPs with long term illnesses such as cancer.  Amounts aside, there are pros and cons in the very different ways tax credits and UC operate.

Although tax credits are on their way out, millions of people are still receiving them, so I will continue to update information on them. HMRC are expecting to be dealing with tax credits issues until at least 2025. 


How much is CTC?

  • The full rate of  the CTC individual element for each child or QYP - in April 2020/2021 - is  £54.32  a week.  However, this can be subject to the "two child" policy (below)
  • A separate Family Element (which took over from the former income tax allowance for families) worth £10.50 a week per family (i.e. one family element regardless of how many children) was abolished for new claims from 6th April 2017

The amount you actually get will depend on your annual taxable income as assessed by HMRC. However if you receive one of the “out of work” legacy benefits (e.g. Income-related ESA or Income Support) or Pension Credit you qualify for the maximum amount automatically.

Where sums are needed,  you will not start to see CTC reduced until income reaches at least £16,385 a year. Sometimes,  you may get still maximum CTC at higher income levels than this. 


Universal Credit and Pension Credit.

For most parents  making new claims for means tested help for children or young people, the amounts will be within:

  • Universal Credit (UC) if the parents are of working age. They will be joined by the many similar age parents currently getting CTC,  as this and the other five "legacy benefits" merge into UC.
  • Pension Credit (PC) if parents - or people acting as parents - are aged over "pension age" . PC remains outside of UC , even if it is changing a little because of it. That includes the introductio of new amounts for a child / young person from the 1st February 2019, to pave the way for the eventual abolition of Child Tax Credit

The basic amounts of child elements  in UC  - and of child amounts in PC -  are very close to those of CTC at £54.40 per child or young person. Again as with CTC, this may be affected by the "Two child policy" below) . However:

  • instead of a separate family element as under CTC, there is a higher amount paid for the first child (who gets £64.90 rather than £54.40) . As with CTC family element, this extra amount does not  apply to new claims made after 6th April 2017. But you will receive the extra amount if  you move from CTC that includes a Family Element over to UC or PC.
  • it may not be as easy to spot the amounts (especially in the case of UC)  as they are paid as part  of an overall UC or PC payment, rather than as a separate stand alone benefit like CTC. You will get a breakdown of how the sums are done.  Amounts for children are no longer paid separately to the main carer, which is causing some real concern. The DWP were having a rethink on this, while Scotland and Northern Ireland intend to routinely split payments,  as and when powers are in place to do so.
  • There is no equivalent to that minimum £16,385 CTC income threshold, that guarantees you receive the full rate of CTC, on incomes below that threshold.  Effectively, under UC or PC,  the taper will start off alongside all the other amounts within the sums, so that the amounts for children effectively start reducing from a lower income and at a faster rate than under CTC. 

For further information on UC, see the general series of Benefit Blogs on UC  – starting with UC1  What is Universal Credit?   - and an accompanying series addressing that crucial "How much UC will I get?” question – starting with UC Sums 1 …… See the links below.


When do payments for children and young people stop?

The rules for both CTC and the payments within PC and UC are the same, but all are slightly differently put than for Child Benefit but aimed at doing the same thing. The key difference are: 

The Two Child limit

This limit on help applies only to the main child elements in CTC or UC. It could also apply to Pension Credit too, but often this may be where an exception (see below) . It does not affect other help for children such as Child Benefit or to extra help for children with a long term illness or disability that we look at next time. 

Essentially the Two Child policy means that neither UC, PC or CTC would usually include a basic child element or amount n extra amount for any third or subsequent children born after the change came in on 6th April 2017. However, there are some limited exceptions in cases of:  adoption, family kinship care arrangements – which is where grandparents might escape any limit, multiple births and children born as a result of non-consensual sex 

There are however, no exceptions for  say  exceptional family circumstances, children who are seriously ill n or for children who were planned for when parents had all the means to support them independently, but where a family finds itself unexpectedly in more limited financial circumstances. 

The impact of the Two child policy  varies:

  • there is no impact if you only have two children
  • if you have more than two children, then any children born before 6th April 2017 are not affected by this change.
  • but any third or subsequent child born after  6th April 2017, will not be covered by the appropriate CTC, UC or PC child amount for basic living expenses.

If you are affected by the Two Child Policy, it  will be worth checking with a Benefits Advisor to see whether there may have been an error in applying this, whether an exemption could apply or to check on any other benefit entitlements that you may be missing out on that might help plug this gap where the "safety net previously was.  



Summary and next time:

There is then some financial support available for children whether they have any health issues or not. Some is usually simple, straightforward and in place such as  Child Benefit, before cancer came crashing into a family's life 

But cancer can bring with it reductions in income - if a someone has to stop earning while unwell or a carer - and that might mean looking at claiming some extra means tested support for now. Or sometimes whether existing help might increase.  

Until 2018 , this support was through a separate amount -  Child Tax Credit (CTC)  - as part of a family's  tax credit claim, paid to the person with main care of a child. And currently for most families receiving this support it still is. However, for most all new claims, this will now come as part of  a single household payment of Universal Credit (UC)  or for new claims from older people (e.g. grandparents) through Pension Credit (PC). However you can still add a first or second child onto an existing tax credits claim. Eventually, UC will take over fully from CTC,

The child elements in both UC and CTC  are around the same, with both having been cut back over recent year. Complication is added by  the "two child policy" which is only now starting to have a larger impact is only on families who have a third or subsequent child born after the 6th April 2017. The safety net is no longer there for those children, but it will be particularly worth getting advice if you and your child are affected. 

However,  that limit  does not affect child disability amounts within UC and CTC, for those with  a long term illness or disability. So, in part three of this blog,  I will take a look at this extra help, alongside the non-means tested  Disability Living Allowance (DLA) that triggers the child disability additions. DLA - and PIP from 16 - offer topped up by child disability additions make up the extra help available - on top of the general help in this blog - when a child or young person has cancer. 



Links and further reading:


Other blogs in this series

Other useful blogs

External links

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