What Can You Do at Age 21 in the UK?


Turning 21 used to be a pretty big deal in various parts of the world, and it came with the freedom to vote, marry, hold property, and join contracts. 21st birthdays were so iconic in traditional English societies that it was commonplace for older children to receive a key to the family home upon turning 21.

Although many of these “freedoms” have been pushed to earlier years, your 21st birthday still comes with quite a few perks, especially if you’re living in the UK.

Here are some things you can do at age 21 in the UK:

  1. Adopt a child.
  2. Hold a license to drive larger vehicles.
  3. Attend 21+ functions, events, and clubs.
  4. Supervise a learner driver.
  5. Become an Uber driver.
  6. Hold a transport pilot license.

Of course, you can do many other things as a 21-year-old in the United Kingdom, but this article covers specific actions you can legally do under UK law. Read on to learn how to make the best of turning 21 in the United Kingdom.

a 21-year-old man with his adopted child in the sofa

1. Adopt a Child

United Kingdom legislation is clear on who can be responsible for a child and at what age they can qualify as a legal guardian or act as a legal caretaker. The law states explicitly in the Children Act of 1989 that only adults of 18 years and older can take responsibility for their children (source: The National Archives).

However, adopting a child is another matter entirely. The Adoption and Children Act of 2002 details specific provisions for who and under what conditions one can adopt a child (source: The National Archives). 

In particular, Part 1, section 51 of the Act states that single 21-year-olds can adopt kids (source: The National Archives).

Adopting in the UK is easy, and you can apply to be a parent through an adoption agency. The Consortium Of Voluntary Adoption Agencies (CVAA) has a directory to help you find agencies in your area. (source: CVAA Directory)

The process is pretty rigorous, and it usually takes six months before the state completes all the required examinations to ensure you are fit as a legal guardian. Adopting is free, but you might run into a few legal costs (source: Metro). 

There are a few provisions to the Adoption and Children Act of 2002, but you can adopt a child as a couple, provided that both of you are at least 21 years old (source: The National Archives).

2. Hold a License To Drive Larger Vehicles

You can apply to get a provisional driving license in the United Kingdom when you are 15 years and 9 months old. The law states that you can only drive invalid carriages and mopeds when you turn 16. 

However, you can drive motor bicycles, Agricultural or forestry tractors, and small vehicles when you turn 17. (source: The National Archives)

18-year-olds can drive good medium-sized vehicles in the United Kingdom, but you can drive every other kind of vehicle when you turn 21, according to the Road Traffic Act 1988. (source: The National Archives)

That means you can legally drive heavy-duty trucks, passenger buses, and other Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) as a 21-year-old in the United Kingdom.

There are a few provisions to this, and you need the state’s approval to get a license. However, you can easily apply for a special Class C driving license by joining a driver’s training scheme. (source: Gov.UK)

21-year-old people drinking wine in the club

3. Attend 21+ Functions, Events, and Clubs

You can drink, sell and buy alcohol when you turn 18 in the United Kingdom, and you can legally enter most age-restricted venues in the country. However, several parties and clubs still require that attendees be at least 21 years to participate.

That means you can finally join those age-restricted gentlemen’s clubs and private events. 

Essentially, there are no functions, events, or clubs in the United Kingdom that can bar you from entry based on age when you turn 21.

4. Supervise a Learner Driver

In addition to driving any class of motor vehicle in the United Kingdom, turning 21 gives you the right to supervise other drivers and learner drivers all over the country. (source: Gov.UK) This right means that you can serve as the “guardian-in-vehicle” for minors and learner drivers. 

However, that also means you become the individual accountable for everyone in the vehicle.

You must have had a driving license for at least three years before you can qualify as a supervisor. There is no test to become one, and the United Kingdom issues no special permits to individuals interested in supervising learner drivers.

The only other requirement is that you must be licensed to drive whatever motor vehicle the learner driver is operating. For example, you must be authorized to drive a tractor if you want to supervise a learner driver that’s driving one.

Since you can supervise learner drivers, you can also apply to become a driving instructor. However, becoming a driving instructor requires a special license.

You can get started with the process by logging on to the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency website and following the prompts. The application process typically takes approximately 30 minutes to complete and costs £140 (source: Gov.UK).

5. Become an Uber Driver

Uber drivers serve as tour guides and chaperones in many countries worldwide, and you can become one as long as you’re a legal resident in a country. (source: Uber) Although you only need to be at least 18 years and have a driver’s license to be an Uber driver in other countries, Uber drivers in the UK must be at least 21 years old.

Here’s how to become an Uber driver in the UK:

  1. Sign up online. Log on to the Uber website to get started. Of course, you’ll also need an email address and an internet-enabled device to sign up.
  2. Get a private hire license. The private hire license enables you to legally use your car for private hire activities, including Uber. You can get a private hire license through Uber here.
  3. Upload the required documents to the Uber platform. You’ll need to provide a driver profile photo, a bank statement, private hire insurance, and a valid UK driver’s license to proceed.
  4. Get yourself a car. Uber has a couple of vehicle requirements in the UK, but their standards align with UK vehicle standards. Therefore, if it’s good for you and the UK, it’s suitable for Uber.
  5. Complete the Uber virtual onboarding course. The course gives a rundown of the Uber experience and helps familiarize new Uber drivers with the tools of the trade. You can check out the course on the eduMe.
  6. Activate your Uber account and start diving. You can now start driving and earning.

Being an Uber driver is a great way to make extra money on the side while working a regular job.

airplane parked at the airport

6. Hold a Transport Pilot License

Another benefit of turning 21 in the United Kingdom is that it gives you the right to hold special flying permits after completing the requirements for the license. 

An Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) is a license for individuals interested in becoming commercial pilots. ATPL training is rigorous and only available for citizens at least 21 years old. (source: UK Civil Aviation Authority)

The training lasts for approximately 18 months, and you’ll need a Class 1 Medical certificate to get started. (source: UK Civil Aviation Authority) You’ll also need between £70,000 and £120,000 to pay for training and certification costs.

Although the ATPL training can be pretty demanding, it’s an excellent way to become a certified pilot and get into a profitable career path early in your life.

Is the Age of Majority 18 or 21 in the UK? Why?

The Age of Majority traditionally had several meanings in the UK. It was seen as the legal adult age and was considered the age of responsibility and when a child becomes an adult.

Although a few customs concerning the age of the majority have changed in recent years, the age is still an essential milestone in the life of individuals. (source: Historic UK)

The age of the majority in the UK is 18. Initially, it was 21 but was reduced in 1969 after the Family Law Reform Act was passed in 1969. (source: The National Archives) The government decided that 18 should be the age of majority after the Second World War since the minimum fighting age was already 18.

You can partake in most age-restricted activities when you reach the age of majority, and turning 18 in the United Kingdom opens you up to a host of opportunities. However, there’s a lot more 21 has to offer, as seen in this article.

John Wag

Father, grandfather and proud Yorkshireman. I Love antiques, militaria, collecting coins, banknotes, and anything historical. Enjoy brewing my own beer and other pottering around the house, too!

Recent Posts