Page Utilities
Change wallpaper

Your rights

Everyone has rights. Rights help us stay safe and get fair treatment. Some rights are given to you at certain ages - like being allowed to leave home or drive a car.

What are rights?

Your RightsEveryone has different rights depending on their age. Adults are allowed to do some things that children are not. For example, adults can buy alcohol, have a credit card or take out a loan.

Having rights or age restrictions: 

  • help keep us safe
  • help us understand the law
  • help us make decisions
  • give us freedom and permission to do things like drive, smoke, have sex, drink alcohol or leave home.
  • If you are worried about anything, you can talk to ChidLine.



    Leaving home

    Sometimes things get so bad at home that people feel they have to leave. If you’re experiencing something like abuse or domestic violence, it’s really important to talk to someone –like a trusted adult or a ChildLine counsellor.

    If you feel you have to leave home, try to be prepared - contact your local council to ask about emergency help from social services.

    At age 16

    You can leave home without your parents' or carers' consent (you don't need their permission). If you become homeless and you're 16 or 17 years old, you may be entitled to help with money, housing, education, training and support from social services.

    You can get practical advice on your rights and what you can do to find a place to live by calling Shelter. Your local council will be able to give you more information on the help you can get.

    Although you can't usually rent a home or claim benefits before the age of 18, there are exceptions. Help is available if you are 16 or 17 years old and can't live at home. Your local council or a housing advisor will be able to tell you about housing support for under 18s.

    From the age of 18

    After you turn 18, you can rent your own place and get a mortgage if you have enough money. Get advice on finding your own place to live for the first time.

    Find out more about homelessness, running away or leaving home.


    Find out more about:

    • Alcohol

      The law can be complicated when it comes to alcohol, so it's worth knowing what you can and can't do. The general laws are:

      Age 5 and up
      You can drink alcohol at home if your parent, carer or another adult is there with you.

      Age 14
      You can go to a pub which has a children's certificate, but you can't buy or drink alcohol.

      Age 16
      You can drink wine, beer or cider with a meal in a restaurant.

      Age 18
      You can buy alcohol but remember it is against the law to buy alcohol for anyone under the age of 18.

    • Crime and the law

      Age 10
      In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you are criminally responsible at 10 years old. That means that you are legally responsible for your actions. Any criminal behaviour will be dealt with by the courts.

      Age 12
      If you live in Scotland, you are criminally responsible at 12 years old. This means that you are legally responsible for your actions. Any criminal behaviour will be dealt with by the courts.

      Age 18
      You can be called for jury service. A jury is a group of people who have normal jobs – they come together just for a court case and decide if the person on trial is guilty or not.  
      You can change your name (16 years old in Scotland).

      At any age
      You can make a complaint if you think you're being discriminated against because of race, colour, ethnic origin, sexuality. You can also make an official complaint against the police.

    • Gambling

      Age 16
      You can buy a National Lottery ticket.

      Age 18
      You can place a bet.

    • Leaving school

      In England, your leaving age depends on when you were born. You can leave school on the last Friday in June as long as you’ll be 16 by the end of that year’s summer holidays.

      You must stay in some type of education or training until your 18th birthday if you were born on or after 1 September 1997.

      This doesn’t only have to be school, it can also be:
      - full-time education at college
      - an apprenticeship
      - part-time education or training (as well as being employed, self-employed or volunteering for 20 hours or more a week)

      In Scotland, if you turn 16 between 1 March and 30 September you can leave school after 31 May of that year. If you turn 16 between 1 October and the end of February you can leave at the start of the Christmas holidays in that school year.

      In Wales, you can leave school on the last Friday in June, as long as you’ll have turned 16 by the end of that school year’s summer holidays.

    • Work

      Age 13
      This is the youngest age you can get a part-time job, unless you are working in certain areas for example TV, modelling or theatre.

      Age 16
      You can get a full-time job.
      The NSPCC recommends this as a minimum age that you can work as a babysitter.

      Find out more about getting a job.

    • Money

      Age 11
      You can open your own current account (a type of bank account) but you will need your parents’ permission.

      Age 18
      You can get a credit card or loan

      Find out more about money and jobs.

    • Benefits

      Age 16
      In some situations you can claim Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, and other benefits. You can open your own current account without your parents' permission.

      Age 18
      You may be able to get Jobseeker’s Allowance if you do not have a job.

    • Joining the army

      Age 16
      You can join the Army with parental consent, but you won't be able to go on active service until you are 18.

    • Politics

      Age 18
      You can vote.
      You can become a local councillor.

    • Sex

      Age 16
      You can legally have heterosexual sex (between a man and a woman) or homosexual or gay sex (between two members of the same sex).

      If the person is in a position of trust (for example a teacher or youth worker) then it's illegal for them to have sex with someone aged under 18 who is their responsibility.

      At any age
      You can visit a doctor or adviser to talk about a pregnancy-related issue, such as contraception or abortion. Anything that you say should be kept private and confidential, even if you're below the age of consent (16). If you're worried, check first with the medical professional you're seeing and ask if what you say will be confidential. Find out more about seeing your doctor.

      You can buy condoms at any age. You can also get them for free at sexual health services.

      Sex without consent is illegal at any age.

      Read more about sex.

    • Marriage

      Age 16
      You can get married (including same-sex marriage in England and Wales). You need your parents' permission if you are under 18.

      In Scotland, you don’t need your parents' permission to get married as long as you are over 16.

    • Medical records

      Age 12
      You are able to see your medical records, as long as your doctor believes that you will be able to understand what they mean. Medical records are details of any condition or illness you have and what treatment you may have been given.

      If you just want to have a look at your records, you can ask your doctor or nurse and they should be able to help you. If you want to be able to keep your medical records, you will have to email or write to the hospital to ask.

    • Smoking

      At 18 you can buy tobacco and cigarettes. Smoking cannabis or weed is illegal. Find out more about smoking.

    • Driving

      Age 16
      You can get a license to drive a moped.

      Age 17
      You can apply for a driving licence to drive a car.

    • Travel

      At any age
      To travel abroad you will need a passport. Your appearance will change a lot so once you are over 16 you should get an adult passport.

    • Other issues

      Age 16
      Legally you can buy a pet.

      Age 18
      You can buy fireworks.

    • What are my rights? - UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

      Universal Children’s Day is celebrated on 20 November every year. This is the date that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was created in 1989.

      The Convention applies to all children and young people aged 17 years and younger. The UN Convention has 54 articles which are different parts of the Convention, that say what rights children have, and how the Government should protect those rights.

      The Convention gives children and young people a set of rights that include their right to health, an education, rest and play. It also says that governments must do everything they can do to protect and support children and young people.

      "Every child has the right to be alive and be the best person they can be."
      Find out more about the UN Convention on the rights of the child

    Other sites that can help

    Advice on housing, the law and money issues.

    Find out what the law says about how much children are allowed to work.
    Child employment (GOV.UK)

    Get housing and homelessness advice from Shelter.

    Free legal advice and support for young people. Call free on 0808 808 1001.

    Free legal advice for young people in Scotland. Call free on 0800 328 8970.
    Scottish Child Law Centre (SCLC)

    Get legal information and advice.
    The Children's Legal Centre

    Ask Sam

    Need some more advice about your rights? Why not ask Sam, or see what other young people have asked?

    Go to Ask Sam

    Did this page about your rights help you? Anything missing?


    Your rights 


    We want to make sure everyone can access the information provided on this site

    We've put together a few tips and help for you. Please send us a message if you can't find what you're looking for. Or you have a suggestion of something we could include.

    Using the keyboard instead of the mouse.
    As well as using the tab key to navigate through the screen, the ChildLine website has special access keys:

    Alt+S = skip navigation
    Alt+1 = home
    Alt+0 = accessibility information.

    Is the text size too large or too small?
    You can change your text settings through your browser options:

    In Internet Explorer, go to View > Text size and select your desired text size setting (eg, larger, smaller).

    In Firefox, go to View > Text size and increase/decrease using Ctrl and + or -

    If you have a scroll wheel on your mouse, you can hold down Ctrl and scroll back or forth to increase or decrease the font size in both IE and Firefox.

    Changing your computer screen settings
    To change the size of the image shown on your screen on a PC running Windows 95 and upwards, go to Start > Settings > Control Panel > Display > Settings and change the desktop area by using the sliding bar.

    On an Apple Mac, you can use the Monitor & Sound Control Panel to change the resolution.

    Having difficulty with your keyboard or mouse?
    You can fine-tune your mouse and keyboard settings under Start > Settings > Control Panel > Accessibility in Windows 95/98/NT/2000 and XP.

    Skipping navigation for talking browsers and screen readers
    For speech browsers, you can press Alt and S followed by Enter to skip navigation on our pages.

    The site is W3C level A compliant.




    This page contains help and advice.  If you need to contact ChildLine please go to the Talk to us page

    Search for something on the website
    To search for something on the website, type what you want to find in the search box on the navigation of the site.