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You’re at school or in training (16 and 17 year olds)

Social Security Act 2018,
ss 17, 49–55, Sched 4

The Youth Payment may be available to you if you’re 16 or 17 and living independently from your parents.

You can be single, or married, or in a civil union or de facto relationship, but if you’re single you’ll need to meet some specific requirements (“exceptional circumstances”) as to why you’re living independently.

Qualifying for the Youth Payment

Who can get the Youth Payment?

Social Security Act 2018, ss 49–52

To qualify, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • You must be 16 or 17 years old, and you must not have any dependent children.
  • If you’re single, you must be in “exceptional circumstances” – for example, your relationship with your parents must have broken down (see below, “Showing ‘exceptional circumstances’ if you’re single”).
  • You must be undertaking, or be available for, full-time secondary or tertiary education, or approved full-time training or work-based learning. This must be leading to an NCEA 2 qualification or an equivalent or to a higher qualification. However, you may be exempted from this requirement in some cases – for example, if you’re sick or have a disability.
  • Your income must be below a certain amount (your partner’s income will be taken into account).

The Social Security Act makes it legal for Work and Income and the Ministry of Education to share information about a young person’s schooling and educational achievement.

You don’t need to prove “exceptional circumstances” if you are (or were) married or in a civil union, or in a de facto relationship with your parents’ permission. However, in that case you can’t be in a relationship with someone who in their own right is receiving Jobseeker Support, the Supported Living Payment for sickness, injury or disability, or the Emergency Benefit. (If you have a partner who’s working, this doesn’t disqualify you from getting this benefit, but if the two of you together earn over a certain amount you won’t qualify for any Youth Payments.)

If, because of sickness, injury or disability, you’re unable to regularly work more than 15 hours in “open” employment (that is, not in “sheltered” employment) and this is likely to last for at least two years, you’ll be able to get the Supported Living Payment. See “You’ve got a serious illness, injury or disability”.

Note: If you have a child, you’ll need to apply for the Young Parent Payment, rather than the Youth Payment, see “Teenage parents (Young Parent Payment)” under “You have younger children (under 14)”.

Showing “exceptional circumstances” if you’re single

Social Security Act 2018, ss 49, 51, 52

If you’re single, you must be in “exceptional circumstances” to get the Youth Payment. This means being in one of the following situations:

  • your parents are unable to support you, or
  • your relationship with your parents has broken down, and they’re unwilling to support you, or
  • for some good reason, you can’t reasonably be expected to be financially dependent on your parents, or
  • you were, but are no longer, in the care of Oranga Tamariki Ministry for Children (which has replaced Child, Youth and Family).

When your relationship with your parents has “broken down”

The Social Security Act doesn’t define exactly what “broken down” means.

However, Work and Income may give a narrow interpretation to these words and refuse you the benefit if it decides that you were responsible for the breakdown. For example, if you’ve left home because you disagreed with certain rules that your parents insisted you comply with, you may need to satisfy Work and Income that it was reasonable for you to refuse to comply with those rules.

An organisation independent of Work and Income will assess whether your relationship with your parents has broken down, if you’re applying for the Youth Payment on that basis. The assessor then makes a recommendation to Work and Income, who make the final decision. Family breakdown assessments are currently carried out by Barnardos.

The assessor will interview your natural parents and your caregivers and may also interview other people, such as teachers or social workers. If the assessor decides there hasn’t been a family breakdown, but you believe the assessor didn’t talk to all the people it needed to in order to make a proper assessment, this may be grounds for you to challenge a refusal to grant you the Youth Payment, see “Challenging Work and Income decisions: Reviews and appeals” in this chapter.

Your obligations when receiving the Youth Payment

Social Security Act 2018, ss 105, 110, 162–164, 169

As well as the requirement to be undertaking or be available for education or training, Work and Income can also require you to do other things, such as:

  • attend a budgeting programme
  • go to interviews with Work and Income or Youth Service provider organisations
  • co-operate with Work and Income or Youth Service providers in managing how your benefit is spent – this means, in particular, attending budgeting discussions and providing information about your finances and spending.

Sanctions (penalties) if you don’t meet your obligations

Social Security Act 2018, ss 270, 271

If you fail to meet your obligations for the Youth Payment, you may be subject to a sanction (penalty):

  • For the first or second time, your in-hand allowance (and any incentive payments) will be stopped until you meet your obligations. If you don’t meet them within four weeks, the whole of your Youth Payment (and incentive payments) will be stopped.
  • The third time you fail to meet your obligations, the whole of your Youth Payment (and any incentive payments) will be stopped immediately.

About the payments you’ll get

Social Security Act 2018 ss 338–343, 345, Sched 4, Pt 6; Social Security Regulations 2018,
regs 193–200

Youth Payment beneficiaries are usually subject to “money management”, which means you won’t receive the full amount of the benefit directly. Instead:

  • you’ll receive up to $50 a week directly into your bank account (your “in-hand allowance”)
  • a further amount is placed on a payment card, which you can use to buy food and other groceries from approved suppliers (such as supermarkets, pharmacies, butchers and so on)
  • the rest goes to a Youth Service provider (an organisation contracted by Work and Income), who will pay your key costs such as rent/board, power and phone, and will help you meet your education and training obligations.

    Note: Depending on where you live, it may not be possible for Work and Income to give you a choice as to who your Youth Service provider will be. As examples, the Youth Service provider organisations for the Auckland area are Youthline, Youth Horizons, the Solomon Group Education and Training Academy, and STRIVE Community Trust.

Special “incentive payments” on the Youth Payment

Social Security Regulations 2018, regs 12, 13; Social Security Act 2018, Sched 4, Pt 6

While you’re receiving the Youth Payment, you may also qualify for both of the following incentive payments, if you’ve met certain requirements:

  • You’ll receive an extra $10 a week if you complete six months’ successful participation in education, training or work-based learning.
  • You’ll receive an extra $10 a week if you complete an approved budgeting course and if for three continuous months you’ve also been attending budgeting discussions with Work and Income or a Youth Service provider.

If you’ve met the relevant requirements, you’ll continue to receive the incentive payment for as long as you’re on the Youth Payment, unless you fail to meet your obligations and Work and Income “sanctions” you (see above, “Sanctions (penalties) if you don’t meet your obligations”).

When the Youth Payment stops

Social Security Act 2018, s 54

If you’re in education or training when you turn 18, the Youth Payment won’t stop immediately:

  • If you’re at secondary school on your 18th birthday, the Youth Payment will continue until the following 31 March.
  • If you’re doing some other course when you turn 18, the Youth Payment continues until the last day of your course – unless the course ends in December, in which case the Youth Payment continue until the following 31 March.

Challenging decisions about the Youth Payment

What can I do if I’m refused the Youth Payment?

If Work and Income refuse your application for the Youth Payment, you can apply for a review by a Benefit Review Committee, see “Challenging Work and Income decisions: Reviews and appeals” in this chapter.

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Dealing with Work and Income

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and, depending on your situation, may be able to provide ongoing support.

Work and Income


Phone: 0800 559 009

This website contains information about who qualifies for the different benefits and payments and how to apply for them.

Benefit rates

For information about the benefit rates that apply from 1 April 2021, visit:


Beneficiary advocacy groups

There’s likely to be an advocacy group for beneficiaries in your area. Look for them online. If you’re not able to find one, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau (see below).

Auckland Action Against Poverty


Phone: (09) 634 0591

AAAP provides a free advocacy service for people dealing with Work and Income. They have also published a 30-page “Beneficiary Rights Booklet”, which you can download from their ‘Resources’ page.

Address: 120 Church St, Onehunga, Auckland 1061
Email: advocates@aaap.org.nz

Citizens Advice Bureau


Phone: 0800 FOR CAB (0800 367 222)

Every Citizens Advice Bureau has volunteers who can provide information, particularly on where to access beneficiary advocacy services.

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