Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question about the law and you can’t find the answer you are looking for please email childrenslegalcentre@swansea.ac.uk.

You can find our general information about the law from lots of places, including the internet. If you have a specific question about how the law affects you, or about something that has happened to you or that you have done, you should try and talk to a lawyer with experience in the type of law that will apply – e.g. if something has happened to you at school, you should choose a lawyer experienced in education law. There are also charities that can help and advise you on legal matters, and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau may be able to help.

It can be a sad and worrying time if your parents are splitting up and you may be anxious about where you will live and who you will live with. You won’t be asked to choose who you want to live with, but if your parents can’t agree on who you will live with, an organisation called CAFCASS Cymru may get involved. You will be able to talk to someone from CAFCASS Cymru and tell them what you think about where you should live. The person from CAFCASS Cymru will write a report for the court which will include your views and opinions. The judge who makes the decision about who you will live with will take this into account and will have to make the decision in your best interests. Find at more here.
If you have done something that breaks the law, and you are 10 years old or older, you could be arrested and taken to the police station to be asked questions about what has happened. The police may decide not to do anything more, or they may take further action. What this could be depends on what you have done. If you are arrested by the police, you will have the opportunity to talk to a solicitor who will be able to help you understand what could happen to you in your situation. You can find out more here.
If you go to a ‘maintained’ (‘state’) school, the school has to have a discipline committee to review decisions by the head teacher to exclude a pupil. Depending on how long you’ve been excluded for, the discipline committee can overturn the exclusion. If you aren’t happy with the decision of the discipline committee, you may be able to appeal to the Independent Appeal Panel. The decision letter from the discipline committee should include the details you need to make an appeal. Find out more about the law and school here.
You can see a doctor on your own however old you are, but if you are under 16, the doctor might want to ask you some more questions to be sure that you are OK. The doctor has to keep information you tell him or her confidential. If you need to have any treatment, including medicines or some other treatment, and you are under 16, the doctor may decide that she needs to talk to your parent or carer to ask for their agreement to the treatment. The doctor won’t do this if she thinks you understand the treatment that is being suggested. Find out more about health and wellbeing here.
Sometimes, we get into relationships that aren’t healthy. If someone is making you, or trying to make you, do things that you don’t feel comfortable with, either because they are trying to make you break the law, or because you are being hurt, the law is there to protect you. If you feel able to talk to someone about what is happening, this may be all you need to get support to leave the relationship. If you need more help and support, then depending on what has been happening, the police can help. There are also lots of organisations you can talk to anonymously and confidentially, like Meic Cymru or Childline if you’re not ready to speak openly, or to someone you know, about what is happening. To find more about relationships and the law, click here.
Depending on how old you are, you can get a job while you are still at school, although there are rules that limit how much paid work you can do. Find out more about work here.
Welsh is an official language in Wales and some clubs and activities in Wales will be run in Welsh. You should be able to join in even if you don’t speak Welsh, but you can’t expect the activity to be run in English, or even bilingually. Find out more about the law and how it affects you in your free time here.
Although you can buy most things whatever age you are, some things are ‘age restricted’, so you can’t buy them until you reach a certain age. You can’t buy alcohol, cigarettes or fireworks until you are 18 in Wales. This is for your own health and safety and for the safety of other people. Find out more about your rights as a consumer, and what you can and can’t buy here.
There’s no law to stop you having a social media account, but each social media platform – Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc – has its own set of terms and conditions and most of them include a lower age limit to have an account. If you are too young to have an account and the platform finds out, it may close down your account. Find out more about the law and being online here.
The police and the courts can take action against you if you are in a gang and another member of the gang breaks the law. It’s called ‘joint enterprise’ and it means you can get into trouble with the police even if you didn’t do anything to break the law yourself. Find out more about law and gangs, and about being out in the street here.

When Can I...?

 

AT HOME

You can change your name officially once you are 16. If you just want to use a different name with your friends, you can do that at any time. If you want to change your name (your first name, your surname, or both, officially, so that things like your passport will have your new, chosen name on it, you need a legal document called a deed poll. Find out more about changing your name.
There is no law that says how old you have to be before you can be left on your own at home. Your parents have to decide whether you are old enough and responsible enough to be left at home on your own. They are responsible for you until you are 16, so if they leave you when you might be harmed or injured, they may be breaking the law.
There’s no minimum age in law that you can babysit for someone. The parents or carers of the child you are babysitting have to be happy that you are old enough to keep their child safe. Your parents or carers need to be happy that you are old enough to be left alone to look after another child.

 

TRAVEL

You can get your own passport once you are 16. If you didn’t have a child passport, you can apply for your first adult passport once you are 16 (or up to 3 weeks before you are 16). If you have a child passport, you can use this until it runs out. You would then apply for an adult passport when you come to renew your passport. Find out more about getting a passport.
On the train – there’s no ‘minimum age’ set in law but if you’re very young, and not able to look after yourself, the train company might be concerned about why you are on your own. If you are mature enough to behave sensibly while using the train and while you’re at the station, you should be able to use the train alone. Your parents or the people looking after you should make a decision about whether you are old enough to travel alone. On the bus – As with the train there’s no minimum age for you to travel alone, but if the bus driver or someone else is worried about you, they may ask you why you are alone, or contact the police to see if you are OK. On a plane – No minimum age, but different airlines will have different policies about anyone under 16 travelling alone. Once you’re 16, you can travel alone by plane. If you are travelling abroad, you will need a passport
There’s no minimum age in law about when you can go on holiday without your parents. It will depend on where you want to go and the place you want to stay and the rules they have. If you want to go abroad, you will have to have a passport, and it will depend on the rules of the air company or ferry whether you can travel alone – with or without parental consent.

You can travel without a car seat once you are 12 (or you are 135 cm tall). Once you stop using a car seat, you must wear a seat belt.

You are responsible for wearing your seat belt once you are 14

You can start driving a car when you are 17

 

WHERE I LIVE

You can move out of home without your parents’ or carer’s permission once you are 16.
If you’re 16 or 17 and leaving home means you might be homeless, you should be treated as a priority by your local housing department, although they may also talk to social services to make sure all your needs are being met.

 

EDUCATION

You can go to school from the September after you are 4 years’ old. It’s for your parents to decide which school you should go to – and even whether you should go to school or be educated at home. Find out more about education and school choices.
You can leave school – and leave education – on the last Friday in June in the academic year you are 16. This means that if your birthday is in July or August, you can actually leave school before you are 16 – and if your birthday is in September or October, you will be nearly 17 before you can leave school.

 

WORK

You can get a job doing light work for a few hours a week once you are 13. Special rules apply if you are going to work in TV or the theatre and you are under 13 Find out more about when you can work. You can leave school and work full time once you reach school leaving age, although there are still some restrictions on the hours you can work, the kind of work you can do, and the amount you can expect to be paid until you are 18.
You are normally sent your National Insurance number just before your 16th birthday. If you didn’t get your National Insurance number by the time you were 16, and you are still under 20, you can apply for one. If you lost your National Insurance number you can call HM Revenue and Customs to get it back 0300 200 3500.

Iif you are caring for someone or have a disability, you may be able to receive some kind of benefit or financial support whatever age you are.

If you have a baby, you can claim child benefit whatever age you are.

Once you are 16, you can claim Education Maintenance Allowance if you’re still education.

You may be able to get other benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance, once you are 16.

You can perform on stage, on TV or model at any age, but the person employing you has to have a licence.

 

RELATIONSHIPS

The ‘age of consent’ in Wales is 16. It’s when you are considered legally old enough to freely agree to have sex (which includes sexual touching), with a man or a woman. Remember that you should only have sex if you want to, and feel ready.
You can get married in Wales once you’re 16 as long as you are free to marry and not closely related to the person you want to marry. You have to have your parent’s permission to get married if you are under 18. Opposite sex and same sex couples can get married.

You can only have a civil partnership if you are in a same sex relationship.

The same rules apply as they do for marriage – so you can have a civil partnership if you are 16 or older and free to enter into a civil partnership, but your parents must agree if you are under 18.

If you have a baby, you can claim child benefit whatever age you are.

Once you are 16, you can claim Education Maintenance Allowance if you’re still education.

You may be able to get other benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance, once you are 16.

 

ONLINE

There’s currently no legal age when you can have a social media account, but the different platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, twitter etc) all have their own rules about when you can have an account with them.

 

SHOPS AND SERVICES

You can’t buy alcohol if you’re under 18.

If you are 16 or 17, you can have alcohol (beer, wine or cider) with a meal in a pub or restaurant which sells alcohol, as long as an adult buys it for you.

You can drink alcohol in your home or other private premises if you are 5-16.

Under 5s are not allowed to drink alcohol.

You have to be 18 to buy cigarettes.

You have to be 18 to buy lighter refills or any ‘sniffable’ substances like solvents that the shopkeeper thinks you may use to get high.

You can buy aerosol spray paint when you are 16.

You have to be 18 to get a tattoo unless it’s for medical reasons.

You have to be 16 to buy a lottery ticket.

You can’t get a street trading licence until you are 18

Most banks and building societies have accounts for children, although you will probably need an adult’s permission until you are 18.

You can have a bank account in your own name from birth as long as someone like a parent can operate it for you. As you get older you will be able to have more control over the bank account – each bank will have its own rules, but in general you can start to put money into account between the age of 8-12; once you’re 13 you may be able to get a cash card to take money out of a ‘hole in the wall’ machine. Depending on the bank you open your account with, you may get a cheque book at around 16. You are not allowed an overdraft until you are 18.

You can’t have a credit card until you are 18

You can buy Premium Bonds and open an Individual Savings Account (ISA) when you are 16.

Every film has a certificate which says how old you have to be to see a film:

U – anyone can see the film

PG – should be fine for anyone over 8, but parents should check if the film is appropriate for their child

12 – You have to be 12 to see the film

12A – You can see the film if you are younger than 12 as long as an adult is with you

15 – You have to be 15 to see the film

18 – You have to be 18 to see the film

You can only buy fireworks in categories 2 and 3 if you are 18 or over. No one, even adults, can buy category 4 fireworks unless they are ‘professionals’ trained to manage fireworks.

You can only buy fireworks at certain times of the year unless you got to a licensed firework seller.

You can normally only set off fireworks between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. On bonfire night you are allowed to set off fireworks up until midnight and on New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, you can set fireworks off until 1am

You have to be 18 before you can buy most knives or guns. You will also need a licence to buy a gun.

You can buy your own pet once you are 16.

You can buy a pay-as-you-go mobile phone at any age. You can’t buy a mobile phone on a contract until you are 18 – although a parent or carer could buy a phone and set it up on a contract for you.

You have to be 18 before you can buy a house in your own name

 

HEALTH AND WELLBEING

You can see a doctor on your own at any age. You may not be able to make a decision about treatment until you are 16.

You can make your own decisions about medical treatment once you are 16. You may be able to make decisions about your medical treatment if you’re younger than 16 and understand what’s involved.

Under 5s are not allowed to drink alcohol.

You can give blood once you are 18

Once you are 18, you can ‘opt out’ of the organ donation scheme in Wales.

You can buy condoms at any age – or you can get them free from some sexual health clinics or through a C Card scheme in Wales. You may have to see a doctor or a nurse at a sexual health clinic for other types of contraception, but you can get information and advice about contraception at any age. If the doctor or nurse agrees that you are mature enough, he or she can give you contraception like the pill, or implants, without telling your parents.

Find out more here.

You can go to a sexual health clinic at any age and talk to a doctor or nurse about any problems you’ve got or any advice you’d like. If you’re over 16, you won’t need your parents to be with you. If you’re under 16, and want to go ahead with contraception or an examination or something else, you may need your parent or carer’s consent if the doctor or nurse isn’t sure you understand enough about what’s happening.