The rules for disabled students claiming universal credit (UC) have emerged as being hugely problematic, something a new CPAG in Scotland training course I am delivering will deal with.
To get UC a disabled student must satisfy two provisions: be entitled to personal independence payment (PIP) or disability living allowance (DLA) (or certain other disability benefits), and satisfy the limited capability for work test. Where students with disabilities are in receipt of PIP or DLA, but have not yet been assessed as having limited capability for work, the DWP position is that their claim for UC fails (as at that point they do not have limited capability for work). Note: limited capability for work is a DWP medical assessment of fitness for work. An assessment will be arranged for someone who claims employment and support allowance, or 28 days after someone on UC submits a fit note.
A solution to this catch 22 situation is difficult. One workaround is to claim (new style) contributory ESA on a ‘credits only’ basis. This allows a limited capability for work assessment to take place, following which UC can be claimed. Another workaround is to claim UC but ask for the UC decision not to be decided until there has been a determination on their limited capability for work.
There is more on both these options at https://cpag.org.uk/welfare-rights/resources/article/universal-credit-and-disabled-students.
CPAG in Scotland’s Early Warning System has had a number of cases where claiming UC was a problem for disabled students.
Case study from our advice line
A disabled 20-year-old with autism and learning disabilities, among other conditions, was living with his mother and getting PIP and UC. He started studying a full-time life skills course. He was told by DWP that he could not continue to get UC unless he left the course. Feeling there was no other option, he did leave the course. We explained that the rules only allow a disabled student to remain on UC if they have already been assessed as having limited capability for work (LCW), as well as getting PIP. Unlike ESA, there is no rule that treats you as having LCW pending assessment for UC. He could have asked DWP to send him for an assessment (although they may have refused), or he could have made an employment and support allowance credits-only claim to get the LCW assessment applied. However, both these options take time, probably months, and are not straightforward for people to understand.
To find out more about this and other rules for disabled students claiming UC, book on our
Benefits for disabled studenst course, running on 8 May 2019 in Glasgow from 1-4pm. This NEW half-day course will provide up-to-date information on universal credit for students with a disability, and on what is happening with the devolution of disability benefits to Scotland, among other things.
By Angela Toal, Welfare rights work, Student benefits project worker