Benefits for Care Leavers

Many care leavers aged 16/17 years old cannot receive:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based JSA
  • Housing Benefit or
  • Universal Credit

The Local Authority that is responsible for you must provide financial and housing support. This can be known as aftercare, aftercare services or leaving care services. This now also affects those 16 and 17 year olds in continuing care.

A young care leaver is affected if they meet all the following:

  • Aged 16 or over and under 18
  • They were looked after and accommodated by the Local Authority for at least 13 weeks since age of 14 (does not have to be continuous 13 weeks)
  • They were looked after by the Local Authority at their 16th birthday or after that date
  • They are no longer looked after by the Local Authority
  • They are not living with their family or they are living with their family and are receiving regular financial support from the Local Authority


Lone Parent You could claim income support or income based job seekers allowance, but not housing benefit. The Local Authority will not give regular financial support but should still provide or pay for accommodation.
Care leavers too unwell to work Can claim employment and support allowance (ESA).
They will not be able to claim housing benefit but the Local Authority should still provide or pay for accommodation.

Case Study:

Rob is 17. When he was 14 he started being looked after away from home. He lived with his aunt who was a kinship carer. This continued until a few months after his 16th birthday when he stopped being looked after and moved into support accommodation run by a voluntary organisation. Rob is a care leaver who cannot get Income Support, Income-based JSA or Housing Benefit.

Universal Credit for Care Leavers

Universal Credit (UC) has started to replace means-tested benefits and tax credits. Eventually the following benefits and tax credits will be replaced by Universal Credit:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based JSA
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit

The Universal Credit rules for care leavers aged 16 and 17 are very similar to the special rules for Income Support, Income-based JSA and Housing Benefit, except that young care leavers are still excluded from Universal Credit, even if they return to live with their family, regardless of whether the Local Authority is supporting them. This means that care leavers, and those in continuing care, aged 16 and 17 are not generally able to claim Universal Credit. Instead the Local Authority is responsible for providing financial support and housing. The exceptions for young care leavers or those in continuing care are:

  • If they are parents
  • If they are too unwell to work

You will then be able to claim Universal Credit for living expenses but not for rent.

For more information on Universal Credit and other welfare reforms see