Hands holding a person, with pictures of a house, money and the health cross over him

Benefits

Some students may be eligible for benefits

Most full-time students can't claim benefits but there are some exceptions, which you can see below. Please note, welfare benefits are complex and for some queries you may need specialist advice, please see below for where you can get more help.

If you have a long-term disability or condition you might be able to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP). This benefit is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) so if you are already on DLA you will be switched to PIP in the next few years.

PIP is given to help you with the extra costs of living with your condition but you can spend the money however you like – and it isn’t taxable. PIP is based on how your condition affects your ability to carry out daily activities, such as washing yourself, dressing and undressing, preparing food, socialising with people, and moving around. 

Once you have PIP, you might also be able to claim Universal Credit with elements for illness or disability (which replaced Employment and Support Allowance). However, in order to claim you must have had a Work Capability Assessment and students are not eligible to be assessed; this means you will need to have already had a WCA before the start of your course. Welfare advisers had been using a loophole to help students start a claim during their course but as of December 2021 this loophole will be closed (subject to any successful court challenges).

Alternatively, some students can claim new-style Employment and Support Allowance if they have enough National Insurance contributions from previous work.

If you're able to claim Universal Credit you could also be entitled to the housing element to help with rent.

Those on an income-related benefit may also qualify for Council Tax Reduction/Support, please visit your local council's website for information about how to apply to them.

You can get more information about what help is available to disabled students on the ‘Disabled Students’ page.

Students who are responsible for a child can claim Child Benefit and Universal Credit child element (which has replaced Child Tax Credit). 

Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to claim the Universal Credit housing element and, if you're working, the childcare element - but please bear in mind you can't claim the childcare element if you're receiving the Childcare Grant from Student Finance.

For more information about what help might be available to you, you can visit the ‘Parents' page.

You might be able to claim Universal Credit if you fit into one of the exceptional categories and you can show that you are available to work. Exceptions include being responsible for a child or if your partner isn't a student and makes a joint claim for both of you.

If you have three or more children you might be able to claim the old benefits instead, including Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit (with childcare) and Housing Benefit.

If you are a part-time student and you spend at least 35 hours a week looking after a disabled person you may qualify for Carer’s Allowance.  Citizens Advice has more information about Carer's Allowance.

You may also qualify for the carer element of Universal Credit.

You may be able to claim income-related benefits, as long as you meet other eligibility criteria and have a low income. This could include Universal Credit, Council Tax Reduction, or the older benefits Income Support, Housing Benefit, and Jobseeker's Allowance.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) still classes you as a full-time student during a leave of absence but there are some exceptions.

If you are taking a leave of absence due to illness you may be able to claim Universal Credit with illness element.  To claim this you must already be claiming Disability Living Allowance or its replacement, Personal Independence Payment, and have had a Work Capability Assessment.

If you're not able to claim Universal Credit and have no source of income or support during your Leave of Absence, you could try making a hardship application to Student Finance.

Student Finance will affect any income-assessed benefits, including Universal Credit, Council Tax Support, and older benefits such as Housing Benefit, income-related ESA, income-related Jobseekers' Allowance, Income Support and tax credits. The maximum amount of available loan is taken into account as income, even if you do not apply for a loan or for the maximum amount; this means you can't decide not to apply for the loan in order to keep your benefits.

Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance, Child Benefit, Carer's Allowance, contribution-based ESA, and contribution-based Jobseekers' Allowance will not be affected because they are not based on your income.

 

Undergraduate Loan 

This is a complex calculation but we are including some general information to give you an idea of what is/isn't classed as income.

Your maintenance loan will be classed as income but there are some elements that will be ignored. The following will not be included in your benefits assessment:

  • Tuition loan.
  • £10 a week is ignored for each week.
  • A fixed amount for books and equipment. For 2020/21, this was £390. 
  • A fixed amount  for the cost of travel. For 2020/21, this was £303. 
  • The special support element (which you may get if you have a disability or are a lone parent) in a maintenance loan – you may need to get a statement from Student Finance England showing the breakdown of your loan entitlement.
  • DSA.
  • Dependants' Grants such such as Parents' Living Allowance and the childcare grant.

Universal Credit is usually paid once a month and is based on your circumstances during that month. This is called your ‘assessment period’ and any assessment period that includes the summer vacation will not include your loan in the income assessment.

 

Postgraduate Loan

30% of your loan will be counted as income for your benefit calculation.

Citizens Advice provides information and advice about benefits and your local Citizens Advice should also be able to advise you about your own case.

Gingerbread has a free helpline to advise single parents.

Scope has a free helpline for disabled people, and they help on a range of topics including benefits.