If you have children, you may be entitled to claim child benefit. Read this guide to discover if you are eligible to claim and how to go about it.
Introduction to child benefit
You will receive child benefit if you are responsible for a child under the age of 16, or under 20 if the child stays in ‘approved’ education or training. Only one person can receive child benefit on behalf of a child.
HMRC classes responsibility for a child as whether you live with them, or if you are paying the equivalent of at least the same amount as child benefit towards them. Contributions can include money, birthday/Christmas presents, clothes, pocket money and food.
Once a child turns 16 and the child leaves education or training, child benefit will continue for 20 weeks.
In terms of adoption or fostering, you can apply for child benefit as soon as your adopted child arrives to live with you- you do not have to wait until the process is complete.
If you foster a child, you will receive child benefit if the local council is not paying anything towards the childs accommodation or maintenance.
If you are looking after someone else’s child, you may be able to receive child benefit if you have an informal arrangement to look after a friend/relative’s child.
Payments and rates
There are two types of child benefits rates and they have been fixed until April 2016.
The first allowance is for the eldest or only child, and that is £20.70 per week.
For any additional children after that, the rate is £13.70 per child.
Reporting changes in circumstance
You can report any changes to your circumstances online or through writing to the child benefit office.
Changes you need to report include:
- Turning 16 and leaving approved education/training.
- Starting paid work for 24 hours a week or more.
- Living away from home for more than 8 weeks in a row.
- Living away from you for more than 56 days in a 6 week period.
- Going abroad permanently or for more than 12 weeks.
- The dependent passes away.
- The dependent changes their name.
- The dependent goes missing.
- If the child gets married or enters a civil partnership.
- Starts getting certain benefits.
Familial circumstances change, such as:
- A relationship starts or ends.
- A parent dies.
- Changes to an address or bank account.
- Moving abroad temporarily or permanently.
- A baby or child comes to live with you.
- Your immigration status changes.
- You lose the right to live in the UK.
When your child turns 16
Child benefit will stop the 31st August on or after your child’s 16th birthday if they decide to leave education or training. It will continue if they stay in what the Government terms ‘approved’ education or training, however you must tell the Child Benefit office.
You will be a sent a letter during your child’s last year of school which will ask you to confirm their plans.
Approved education includes:
Full time (more than 12 hours a week averaged)
- A levels or similar
- Scottish Highers
- NVQs or similar vocational qualifications up to level 3
- Home education if this started before your child turned 16.
- Traineeships in England.
Courses are not deemed to be approved if they are paid for by an employer or if they are advanced, such as a university degree.
Your child must also be accepted onto approved education courses before they turn 19.
This should be unpaid and can include:
- Access to apprenticeships in England.
- Foundation apprenticeships/traineeships in Wales.
- ‘Get ready for work’ programmes in Scotland.
- Training for success programmes in Northern Ireland.
Courses which are part of a job contract are not approved.
You must also tell the child benefit office if there are any temporary breaks in their approved education or training, for example if they change college.
If you fail to report a change in circumstances, this could result in an overpayment of your child benefit. In most cases, you will have to pay this back.
If you have been paid too much child benefit, the office will write to you to inform you of the overpayment and explain what caused it, tell you whether you must pay the money back and how to appeal if you believe that they are wrong.
If you suspect you have been paid too much child benefit, you should inform the office straightaway- don’t wait for them to write to you.
It is important to note that you could be charged for benefit fraud if you know you have been overpaid but don’t do anything about it. This can range from a fine to a prison sentence.
You will usually pay back an overpayment in a lump sum.
If you believe the service given to you by the child benefit office has been unreasonable or there has been delays, you can make a formal complaint.
You can do this online by putting the word ‘complaint’ in the question form, or by calling or writing.