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Fostering Blog – At What age can I..?

21 March 2016

M said to me last week that being 14 is horrible because you are old enough to want to do things but not old enough to do them.  Getting worried, I asked what it was she wanted to do, thinking the worst and suddenly seeing teenage pregnancy or drugs looming but she casually said she couldn’t wait to drive and what age could she get a licence?  This led to a conversation about driving lessons, cars, tax, MOT and other motoring costs and ultimately to jobs and money.  I always have interesting conversations with M; she is an intelligent girl and often has an unusual global view of the world around her which can be unusual for teenagers, who are often self centric.

She is 15 in the summer and she asked what can she do at 15 that she can’t do now and what about being 16?  We decided to research it together and it made interesting reading.

Working ages and the law

Age 13

A child of 13 can work in very specific and restricted circumstances such as babysitting (although not recommended), working for a family member or in the film, media or advertising industry in which case a special licence is required.

Age 14

There are more options available for a 14 year old but there are still restrictions and only light work can be undertaken (factories and building sites are not considered suitable).  Hours are restricted and during term time a 14 year old can work for two hours on weekdays and Sundays and for five hours on Saturdays (12 hours a week in total).  In the school holidays working hours differ slightly (up to five hours during the week or Saturday and two hours on a Sunday; 25 hours a week in total) but a 14 year old can’t work before 7am or after 7pm. 

Age 15 (and 16 year olds at school)

There is almost no difference in working hours except now they can work for up to eight hours on a Saturday or during school holidays.

Age 16 and 17 (not at school)

At 16 and 17 years (no longer at school), a young person is now legally considered a Young Worker and although there are much less restrictions, there are some legal rules surrounding employment; a young worker can only work eight hours a day, 40 hours a week and no overnight shifts (exceptional circumstances do apply) and they are no longer restricted to light work.

Age 18

At the age of 18, a person is now considered an adult and adult employment rights apply.

Things to consider: Information was accurate as of Dec 2015 and most Local Authorities apply their own rules and possible permits to the above so it is worth checking with your own LA website.  For more information visit the Gov.uk or TUC Worksmart websites.  A young person must stay in school, education or training until they are 18 years old and this can include college or apprenticeships.

I explained to M that although she could apply for a provisional licence for a moped at 16, I didn’t want her to ride one so I wouldn’t be helping her!  I would, however help her at 17 to drive a car. 

We looked at what others things she could do and found out that at 14 she could have access to her medical records, be criminally responsible (from aged 10), open a bank current account (from age 11) and drink a soft drink in a pub (if the premises has a children’s licence).  Unfortunately for M, being 15 doesn’t give you any additional rights but being 16 opens the doors to the world and everything changes.

At 16 M could apply for a passport, get married with permission (in England and Wales), have sex, drink a glass of wine or beer with her meal in a restaurant and buy a National Lottery ticket. However, I told her if she wins, I’ll expect a big bunch of flowers!  She could also join the army and get a full time job as long as it provides training. 

I realised that M is growing up and has already started planning for her future.  We are paving the way for her to stay with us after 16 and move on to 6th Form or college but from experience, I know the freedom offered at 16 is a temptation that many Looked After Children can’t resist.



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