Simon Osborne outlines new rules extending benefit entitlement for families that include a young person.
The centrepiece of the new provisions is the new child benefit rules.1 They extend entitlement to child benefit to people with responsibility for 'qualifying young persons', including certain (not all) young persons aged 19 but under 20. Additionally, there are changes (mainly consequential) to means-tested benefit and child tax credit rules.
From 10 April 2006, child benefit is payable in respect of a 'child' or a 'qualifying young person'. Anyone aged under 16 counts as a child - whether they go to school or not.
A 'qualifying young person' is someone aged 16 or over but under 20 and who satisfies other conditions (note - see also below regarding 19-year-olds). These are:
- they are aged 16, have left 'relevant education' or training, and 31 August following the sixteenth birthday has not yet been passed;
- they are aged 16 or 17, have left education or training, are registered for work, education or training, are not in remunerative work and are still within their 'extension period';
- they are on a course of full-time non-advanced education, or are doing 'approved training', and they began that education or training before reaching the age of 19;
- they have finished a course of full-time non-advanced education, but are enrolled on another such course (other than one provided as a result of their employment);
- they have left 'relevant education' or 'approved training' but have not yet passed their 'terminal date'.
The Revenue will usually ignore interruptions in education or training of up to six months, or longer if due to illness or disability of the young person, as long as it is considered 'reasonable'.
19-year-olds and child benefit
For a 19-year-old child benefit is only payable if he or she was 19 on or after 10 April 2006. Also, a 19-year-old will only count as a 'qualifying young person' if he or she began the full-time non-advanced education or approved training before becoming 19.
Regarding a 16- or 17-year-old qualifying young person, child benefit remains payable during an extension period starting from the Monday after the education or training ends and continuing for 20 weeks or, if earlier, the first benefit payday on or after his or her eighteenth birthday, if:
- he or she is registered for work, education or training, and
- he or she is not in work of 24 hours a week or more, and
- he or she is not in education or training, and
- the claimant was entitled to child benefit for the young person immediately before the extension period, and
- application is made in writing within three months of the education or training finishing.
Full-time non-advanced education
Full-time is regarded as an average of more than 12 hours a week term time, not including meal breaks and unsupervised study, both in schools and colleges and 'elsewhere'. Non-advanced courses are not comprehensively listed, but will include GCSEs, 'AS' and 'A' Levels, NVQ level 3 and below and Scottish National Qualifications at higher or advanced higher level. (Advanced courses include degrees and HNDs.)
Relevant education and child benefit
This is defined as 'full-time' and 'non-advanced'. In practice, the Revenue will define this as above.
Approved training and child benefit
This is defined as any of the following courses:
- In England, Entry to Employment or Programme-Led Pathways;
- In Scotland, Get Ready for Work, Skillseekers or Modern Apprenticeships;
- In Wales, Skillbuild, Skillbuild + or Foundation Modern Apprenticeships.
New regulations align rules regarding children and qualifying young persons in means-tested benefits with the child benefit provisions.2
Where a 'child' aged 16 or over may still be included as part of the claim, such a person is now defined with reference to the definition of a 'qualifying young person' for child benefit. So, qualifying young people aged 16 to 19 inclusive may be included, e.g. if they are studying full-time at school or college for GCSEs or 'A' Levels or are in 'approved training', unless they fall foul of the specific bars for some 19-year-olds (see above) or they qualify for benefit in their own right.
Full-time students who are a 'qualifying young person' (or a child) for child benefit purposes may be able to qualify for benefit in their own right. However, for IS and income-based JSA, receiving 'relevant education' (and so being generally excluded from own-right entitlement) now means being someone who is a 'qualifying young person' for child benefit purposes. A qualifying young person (or a child) cannot gain own-right entitlement to those benefits via the training route.
Child tax credit
Again, amendment regulations align rules on what children can be claimed for with the new child benefit provisions.[Footnote 3] The child tax credit (CTC) rules already have their own definition of qualifying young person, and it is that definition that is amended. Basically, qualifying 19-year-olds may now be included.
A qualifying young person may now include someone aged over 16 but under 20. Someone of that age in full-time education or 'approved training', as defined for child benefit purposes, is now among those who may count as a qualifying young person. This will not apply if the approved training arises through their employment. The training or education must have begun before the nineteenth birthday. Similarly, someone who has left approved training may now be included, provided the other usual conditions are satisfied.
Both for education and approved training, the Revenue will ignore interruptions of up to six months, or for longer where due to illness or disability of the young person, provided it is considered 'reasonable' to do so.
Thanks to Susan Mitchell, freelance writer on welfare rights, for her work on the child benefit rules, on which some of this article is based.
Please be aware that welfare rights law and guidance change frequently. Therefore older Bulletin articles may be out of date. Use keywords or the search function to find more recent material on this topic.