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Benefits & Tax Credits

Studying at university can affect your entitlement to welfare benefits and Universal Credit. 

Don't miss out on Universal Credit, Welfare Benefits or Tax Credits particularly if you are a full-time student who has children or a disability.

Childcare Fact Sheet 2019

Plus Icon Universal Credit

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit (UC) is replacing legacy benefits like Housing Benefit, Income Support, Jobseekers’ Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance and Tax Credits.

As a general rule* you can no longer make a new claim for a ‘legacy benefit’, so if you need to make a new claim for a means-tested benefit it would have to be for Universal Credit.  (You could still claim a contribution-based benefit like ‘new style’ JSA or ‘new style’ ESA if you have paid enough National Insurance contributions because you have worked in the last 2 or 3 years.)

*If you qualify for a severe disability premium, for example because you get the ‘daily living component’ of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) you can still claim legacy benefits.  Also, if you are in temporary, emergency, supported or sheltered housing you cannot claim UC but need to claim Housing Benefit instead.

Am I eligible for Universal Credit?

Full-time students in Higher Education cannot usually get Universal Credit, however, there are some exceptions. 

See Universal Credit and Students

Part-time students can claim Universal Credit but may need to meet some work-related requirements agreed with their job coach. 

What student income is taken into account?

Your Maintenance Loan is taken into account from the start of your course until the last day of your course, except for assessment periods which include the first day of the summer vacation and the whole assessment periods over the summer before your course starts again.  If you are entitled to a loan then the maximum is taken into account, even if you do not take out all the loan.

If you get the Special Support Element as part of your Maintenance Loan this is disregarded. 

£110 per month is also disregarded from your Maintenance Loan (part-time or full-time).

Adult Dependants Grant counts in full.

Parents’ Learning Allowance, Childcare Grant and Disabled Students’ Allowances are disregarded.

See the information at Entitledto: Student Income and Universal Credit

If you or your partner have earnings or other income, these are also taken into account.

Should I claim?

If you are still getting legacy benefits and don’t need to make a new claim, then do not make a claim for Universal Credit without seeking advice first.

See the information at Entitledto: Changes that trigger Universal Credit

What happens during the summer break?

If your student income has been too high during the year for you to get Universal Credit then you can claim Universal Credit up to a month before the first day of the summer vacation. Student income isn’t counted during the summer vacation.  It is not counted in an assessment period that includes the first day of the summer vacation, or any full assessment periods over the summer that do not include your first day of return to study.

So, if you are going to apply, it is a good idea to apply as soon as you can up to a month before the first day of the summer vacation.

If you have already been getting Universal Credit during the year, make sure the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have recalculated your UC for the summer months, to exclude student income.

How do I claim?

You will need to apply online for UC, see: Apply for Universal Credit

In some circumstances you may also need to call the Universal Credit helpline to arrange an appointment with your ‘work coach’.

See the information on GovUK about How to Claim

How much can I get?

Use the calculator at Entitledto.co.uk to work out how much you could get each month.  Remember that you need to include your Maintenance Loan income and you can enter this in the 'other income' section.  You will need to take away any 'Special Support Element' from the yearly Maintenance Loan that you get, divide the remaining loan by the number of assessment periods in the academic year (usually 8) and then take away a further £110 each month.  If you need help with this please contact our Student Money Advice line on 0113 812 5593 between 10-12 Monday - Friday.

How will I get paid?

You will receive one monthly payment, which could include a housing element, work element, and/or a child element. You will usually be responsible for making payments towards your rent, although you can ask for this to be paid straight to your landlord or housing association.

The date you claim is known as the first day of your assessment period. You will receive your first payment five weeks after your claim date, and each month thereafter a week after the first day of your assessment period.

If the five week delay causes financial difficulty you can ask for an advance payment Get an advance first payment

Will I be expected to look for work?

No, not during term time if you are a full-time student and you receive a Maintenance Loan, but you may be required to look for work over the summer, depending on your circumstances.  Part-time students may need to meet some ‘work-related requirements’ throughout the year.

See the information at UniversalCreditInfo.net Work related requirements as a student

Where can I go to for help?

Make an appointment with a Student Money Adviser to get a benefit check by phoning our advice line on 0113 812 5593 between 10am and 12pm Monday to Friday.

You can also get help in Leeds from:

Citizens Advice

Leeds City Council Welfare Rights Unit

Plus Icon Students and 'Legacy' Benefits
Full-time Students and Legacy Benefits
You can no longer make a new claim for 'legacy' means-tested benefits because they have been replaced by Universal Credit. There is an exception to this if you are a disabled student who gets a severe disability premium, or if you live in sheltered, temporary, emergency or supported accommodation.

Legacy benefits are:
Income Support
Housing Benefit
Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
Child Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit

If you are still getting one of the  'legacy' benefits then only claim Universal Credit after getting advice.

Most full-time students are not eligible for 'legacy' benefits either during term-time or during the summer vacation.

However, some full-time students may be entitled, for example:

  • Single parents
  • Student couples with dependent children
  • Students with disabilities
  • Students who have suspended their studies due to illness or caring duties
  • Partners of students, who are on a low income or unemployed

If you fit into one of the above categories you may still be entitled to Income Support, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit* and/or Jobseekers' Allowance, either throughout the year or during the summer vacation. (*Full-time students are exempt from Council Tax, but partners who are liable may be able to claim Council Tax Benefit.)

Read our Factsheet: Full-time Students, Benefits and Tax Credits

If you are not sure about your entitlement to means-tested benefits, contact Student Money Advice.

Student Income and 'legacy' benefits

In your first year student income is taken into account for 'legacy' means-tested benefits from the beginning of your course until the end of June. In following years it is taken into account from the beginning of September until the end of June. In your final year it is taken into account from the beginning of September until the last day of your course.

An allowance for books, equipment and travel, in total £693 is disregarded from the student loan, and then a further £10 per week is disregarded.

Website: Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)

When you get a means-tested legacy benefits, some of your student support is taken into account. Income from your Maintenance Loan is counted by the DWP, whether or not you borrow your full entitlement.

The table below shows which grants and loans are taken into account as income by the DWP.

Income Type    Means-tested Benefits Tax Credits
Tuition Fee Grant Not counted Not counted
Tuition Fee Loan    Not counted Not counted
Maintenance Loan 

Counted after some disregards

Not counted
Special Support Grant Not counted Not counted
Adult Dependants' Grant    Counted in full Counted in full 
Childcare Grant    Not counted Not counted
Parents' Learning Allowance Not counted Not counted 
Disabled Students Allowance Not counted Not counted
NHS Bursary Counted in full Not counted 
Social Work Bursary Living cost element counted  Not counted
Leeds Beckett Hardship Funds Lump sum or course costs not counted Not counted
Part-time fee loan/grant Not counted Not counted
Professional and Career Development Loan Living cost element counted Living cost element counted
Part-time Students

Studying part-time should not affect your ongoing entitlement to 'legacy' means-tested benefits. However, if you are claiming Jobseekers' Allowance you will still need to be available for and actively seeking work. You may also be asked to complete a 'Student Questionnaire', which is a series of questions designed to test your eligibility for benefits.

Plus Icon Housing Benefit

Part-time students and some full-time students, for example single parents or students with a disability, could claim Housing Benefit if they are liable to pay rent and have a low income.

Some student income is taken into account when calculating Housing Benefit.  (See table in 'Means-tested benefits' section above.)  

The amount of benefit that is paid is also limited by the Local Housing Allowance.

The Local Housing Allowance is determined by the area that you live in and the number of bedrooms that you are considered to need.

Plus Icon Non-means-tested Benefits

Non-means tested benefits are not affected by student income, and for the most part are not affected by study, however full-time students may need to fulfil additional rules for some non-means tested or contributory benefits.

Non-means tested benefits can include benefits for people with children, contributory benefits for those seeking work or unable to work.  It also includes disability benefits (see section below).

Benefits for Families
Employed or looking for work 
Expecting or Bringing up a Child

Plus Icon Disability Benefits

There are benefits you may be entitled to as a result of illness or disability. 

You can no longer make a new claim for Income-related Employment and Support Allowance unless you are entitled to the severe disability premium.  It has been replaced by Universal Credit.  But if you have paid enough National Insurance Contributions you may be able to claim 'New Style' ESA.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Employment and Support Allowance is a benefit for people who have limited capability for work because of illness or disability. There are two types of ESA:

1.Contributory ESA or 'New Style' ESA is not means tested. You need to have paid enough National Insurance contributions, or qualify for ESA in Youth. It is paid after 28 weeks of limited capability for work.

It is possible that starting full or part-time study could prompt a review of a your limited capability for work. 

2. Income-related ESA (IR-ESA) is means-tested. You could be eligible if you are a part-time student and have limited capability for work.

If you are a full-time student you could be eligible for ESA because you receive Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

Full-time students getting DLA or PIP are treated as having limited capability for work.

I-R ESA is means-tested and takes into account the student maintenance loan, so often an award is only made during the summer vacation when the student loan is not taken into account.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
PIP is a benefit for adults with disabilities who need help getting around and/or help with daily living activities.

Find out more about PIP at Personal Independence Payment

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
This is a benefit for people with disabilities who have care or mobility needs.  It has been replaced by PIP. New claims for DLA can only be made for children under 16.

Starting a course of study should not affect a student's entitlement to Disability Living Allowance, provided the student still fulfils the eligibility criteria.

Plus Icon Tax Credits

Child Tax Credit
Child Tax Credit is a payment to support families with children and is paid in addition to Child Benefit. You can claim Child Tax Credit if you are responsible for children up to 16 (19 if the child is in full-time education). You do not have to be working to claim.

Working Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit is a payment to top up the earnings of working people on low incomes, including those who do not have children. It also provides extra support for disabled people in work.

To be eligible for Working Tax Credit you must meet the residency conditions, and be:

  • single, over 16, have a child and work at least 16 hours or more a week; or
  • if you're in a couple and have a child, your joint paid working hours need to be at least 24 a week, with one of you working at least 16 hours a week. There are some circumstances where you could get WTC where joint hours are fewer than 24 - see What hours do you need to work?
  • over 16, have a disability and work at least 16 hours or more a week; or
  • over 25, and work at least 30 hours a week; or
  • 50 or over, are coming off certain benefits and working over 16 hours a week.
  • 60 or over and work at least 16 hours a week. 

Phone the Tax Credit Information Line on 0345 300 3900 for information or a claim pack.


Plus Icon Health Benefits

If you are under 19 and studying full-time you can still get free health benefits, e.g. prescriptions and dental treatment.

Almost all other students will have to apply on Claim Form HC1 for help to reduce the cost of NHS charges on the basis of low income.

You can get an HC1 from your doctor, dentist or optician. You can also order an HC1 form by contacting the Health Cost advice line on 0845 850 1166.

You can ask for an HC1 form at our Student Hub in the Rose Bowl.

See the information leaflet HC11 for more details.

Leaflet: HC11

This page was last modified: 27/01/2020

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