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Benefits & Tax Credits

Becoming a student can have an impact on your entitlement to certain benefits. Your student status may mean you are no longer eligible to claim a benefit you have been receiving, or your new income from student funding may affect the amount you are able to receive.

This page provides information on how being a student affects your entitlement to specific benefits. It is important to understand how your income will change when you become a student to avoid relying on support you may no longer receive.

If you are in any doubt about your entitlement, it is important you speak to the right people to get advice. You can get in touch with the UWS Funding and Advice Team or contact your local council's benefit advice team.

Universal Credit

The UK Government has been making major changes to the benefits system since the Welfare Reform Act 2012 was passed, including the introduction of Universal Credit.

Universal credit is being phased in nationally by 2021 and will replace all means-tested benefits for people of working age, including Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance, Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.

You can find out more through your local council's benefit advice teams.

Full-Time Students

As a general rule, full-time students cannot claim benefits. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as lone parents or those with a disability.

There are also some benefits that are unaffected by your student status. These are Child and Working Tax Credits, and Child Benefit. You can read more about these in the sections below.

 

Council Tax Exemption

Full-time students are normally exempt from paying council tax, but you will need to prove to your council that you are a full-time student meeting the necessary criteria. If you live in a property where all residents are students, you will all need to provide this proof.

If you are the only adult in your home, you will also be exempt from council tax as you would be the only person liable for this. Again, you will need to provide proof of your student status to your council.

If you are living with a spouse or partner, they will also be liable for council tax, meaning you cannot claim a full exemption, but your student status should allow you to claim a discount. The council tax exemption leaflet explains how to apply for a council tax exemption. This is for students at the Ayr, Hamilton and Paisley campuses. Dumfries and London students should visit the Student Link.

Child Benefit

Being a full-time student does not affect your entitlement to claim Child Benefit. Child Benefit is a tax-free payment that you may be able to claim if you are responsible for a child under 16 years old (or under 20 if they are in approved education or training).

Further information can be found on the UK Government website.

Tax Credits

Tax Credits are shortly to be replaced with Universal Credit (see above).

Being a full-time student does not affect your entitlement to Tax Credits if you remain eligible while studying, but some elements are taken into account when assessing your entitlement for student support.

Tax Credits are provided from the government to help families or individuals on a low income. You claim on your own if you are single, or jointly with your partner if you are married, in a civil partnership or living together.

There are two types of Tax Credit:

  • Child Tax Credit for those responsible for at least one child or young person
  • Working Tax Credit for those working a minimum number of hours, but on a low income

There is also a childcare element of Working Tax Credit for those who need to use childcare to be able to work.

Many of our students are parents and will receive Child Tax Credits. However, due to the minimum number of work hours necessary to claim Working Tax Credits, many of our students, particularly lone parents, are unable to meet this requirement without it impacting on their studies.

Further information can be found on the UK Government website.

Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance

This will soon be replaced with Universal Credit (see above).

As a general rule, full-time students cannot usually claim Income Support or Jobseeker's Allowance while they study. This is because students are expected to finance their studies and living expenses through loans and grants. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule as detailed below.

Income Support is available for those who are not expected to work (in most cases this is based on the age of your youngest child). Jobseeker's Allowance is an alternative and includes a requirement to be actively looking for work. As Jobseeker's Allowance includes a requirement to be actively looking for work, full-time students cannot normally claim during term time, but may be eligible to apply in the summer break.

During term time, full-time students might be able to claim Income Support if they are lone parents, disabled students or young people without parents to support them. Income Support is a means tested benefit which will take into account your income from student funding, and any other income you might have. Although quite a few full-time students are eligible to apply, many find that income through student funding puts them above any threshold for receiving the benefit.

If you fit the criteria for claiming Income Support as noted above, but don’t receive any due to the income assessment, you should be reassessed for the summer when you are not receiving loan or bursary payments. You may be able to get some Income Support before registering for the next year of your course. You may be able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance during the summer holiday if your child is too old for you to claim Income Support and you are available for and actively seeking work.

You may also be able to claim if you’re waiting to go back to a course, having taken approved time out for a period of up to one year because of an illness or caring responsibility that has now come to an end.

The rules can be complex and it is difficult for us to cover every possible case, so please do not hesitate to contact us for more tailored advice.

Housing Benefit

This will soon be replaced with Universal Credit (see above).

Housing Benefit is designed for people on a low income to help them pay their rent. As a general rule, full-time students cannot usually claim Housing Benefit while they study. This is because students are expected to finance their studies and living expenses through loans and grants.

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule as detailed below. Eligibility can also change in the summer break between years of study.

Full-time students who can claim Housing Benefit may include: 

  • Lone parents 
  •  People who get Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance as detailed above 
  • Disabled students who qualify for Disabled Student Allowance
  • Students with a partner who is also a full-time student, and who have dependent children
  • Students with dependent children – if you are solely responsible for a child boarded out with you by a local council or voluntary organisation (including foster parents)
  • Students who take a break in their studies, with the agreement of their school or college, because of a spell of illness, or caring for someone who is ill or disabled, and that period has now ended
  • Pensioners – if you are aged 60 or more

Housing Benefit is means tested and will take into account your income from student funding and any other income you might have. Although quite a few full-time students are eligible to apply, many find that income through student funding puts them above any threshold for receiving the benefit.

If you fit the criteria for claiming Housing Benefit as noted above, but don’t receive any due to the income assessment, you should be reassessed for the summer when you are not receiving loan or bursary payments. You may be entitled to receive some Housing Benefit before registering for the next year of your course.

Please contact your local authority for further details or to apply.

Child Maintenance

Being a full-time student does not affect your entitlement to Child Maintenance but any payments you do receive are taken into account when applying for your student support.

Further information can be found on the UK Government website.

Part-Time Students

As part-time students don’t get support for living costs while they study, being a student rarely affects their entitlement to benefit but it also doesn’t excuse them from meeting the conditions of any benefits.

For example, for a part-time student to receive Jobseekers Allowance, they must remain available for work and cannot use their studies as a reason for being exempt from this.

If you a part-time student on a low income, you should ensure you are claiming the benefits you are entitled to claim and should seek advice from your local council's benefit advice team. You should also be mindful of the changes to benefits that will take place over the coming years.

Many part-time students can apply for UWS's discretionary and childcare funds. These funds can contribute to the costs of books, course materials, travel and childcare that you face as a direct result of your studies.

Most benefit agencies will understand that this income is for study related costs only. However, if your benefit office questions any income you receive from us, or try to reduce or stop your benefits as a result, please let us know and we will write them a letter explaining the purpose of the funds.

Further Information

Dumfries and Galloway Council - information on benefits for those living in this council area

North Lanarkshire Council - information on benefits for those living in this council area

South Lanarkshire Council - benefits and money advice for those living in this council area

North Ayrshire Council - information on benefits for those living in this council area

South Ayrshire Council - information on benefits for those living in this council area

Renfrewshire Council - benefits and debt advice for those living in this council area

Glasgow City Council - information on benefits for those living in this council area

Single Parents - a website for single parents with advice on a number of topics, ranging from money and benefits to domestic violence and illness.

Turn 2 Us - advice on the pending benefits changes and a timetable showing when they are likely to take effect.

Advice Renfrewshire - a one-stop-shop website bringing together all the support services in the area on one page.

Last updated: 23/08/2017