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Children and dependants overview

Universal Credit includes an extra amount of money for dependent children who live with you. This is called the child element.

Who counts as a dependent child is the same as in current benefits and tax credits. Broadly, if you are able to claim Child Benefit for a child then they should be included in your Universal Credit claim.

You can get a child element for each child born before 6 April 2017. From this date a 2 child limit was introduced meaning you won't get an extra child element for a third or subsequent child born on or after this date unless you meet one of the exemptions to the 2 child limit. You can still get a disabled child element or childcare element for a child even if the 2 child limit means you don't get a child element for them.

The calculator will take date of births for each of your children and if you have 3 or more children you will be asked to identify if those born after 5 April 2017 are exempt from the limit.

When are 16-19 year olds dependent?

Whether children aged between 16 and 19 are included in your claim depends on whether they are attending or enrolled in full-time non-advanced education or on approved training. If they are not in education or training you may not get the child element.

You may not be able to add a child to your claim if the child is claiming another benefit in their own right.

What happens if you share responsibility for a child

Only one person can get the child element for a dependent child. If you share responsibility for a dependent child with someone else, for example an ex-partner, you must both decide which one of you has main responsibility.

You will be asked for information if:

  • you claim Universal Credit for a child who doesn't live with you
  • the child goes to live with someone else
  • someone else claims Universal Credit or Child Tax Credits for the child

What happens if responsibility for a child is disputed

The main responsibility for a child may sometimes be disputed with another person, for example an ex-partner.

If you and the other person can't agree who has main responsibility, a decision will be made on your behalf based on information you both provide such as:

  • who the child normally lives with
  • who meets the child's day to day needs - for example, shoes and clothing
  • whether or not a court custody order is in place
  • the child's contact address on school, nursery or medical records

More information is available on when to include children in a benefits claim.

You will not be able to receive the child element for children you foster. Equally, money that you receive for fostering will be ignored. However, you still need to tell Universal Credit about foster children.

Disabled Child Addition

You may get extra money if your dependent child is disabled. This is called the disabled Child Addition and is paid at one of two set rates, a higher rate or a lower rate.

To qualify for the lower rate your child must be entitled to either:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment (child over 16)

To qualify for the higher rate your child must be entitled to:

  • Disability Living Allowance (higher rate care component)
  • Personal Independence Payment (enhanced rate)(child over 16), or
  • registered blind

If your child is registered blind you must provide evidence of this.

Childcare costs

You may also be able to get a childcare costs element to help towards the cost of registered or approved childcare for a dependent child. See our Childcare overview for Universal Credit help page for further details.

Reporting a change in your circumstances

You must report a child joining your family within 1 month.

You may stop getting the child element if your dependent child:

  • leaves full-time non-advanced education or approved training
  • leaves home
  • goes into local authority care, (except for respite care)
  • is in prison, or in custody waiting trial or sentence