In this issue:
Students and benefits training courses
- New factsheets
- Universal credit update
- Claiming benefits when a course ends
- Best start grant
There are four updated students and benefits factsheets (dated March 2019) available here. These include updated factsheets on benefits for disabled students, and young people in further education or training. Please feel free to download and distribute these factsheets as required.
CPAG in Scotland have produced a briefing ‘Students and universal credit’ detailing issues that have come up on our advice line in the last quarter of 2018. The main issues are around student income assessments for universal credit, and universal credit for disabled students. We will continue to monitor issues, make recommendations and raise these issues with DWP and other relevant departments. We are also keen to hear from you if you have any cases that you think we should know about. Email [email protected]
The ‘full service’ of universal credit (UC) is now rolled out in all areas. New claims can no longer be made for ‘legacy benefits’ - income-based JSA, income support, income-related ESA, housing benefit (unless you are in temporary or ‘specified’ supported accommodation), child tax credit or working tax credit. If you are already on these benefits you can stay on them, but if you need to make a new claim for one of these benefits you cannot. Instead you can claim UC. There are situations in which a claim for UC is necessary, but sometimes a better-off calculation needs to be done to check that claiming UC is the best way forward. Note that if you already get CTC and need to add WTC, or vice versa, this can be done as it does not count as a new claim.
There is one exception to these rules, which was introduced on 16/1/19. This is for people who get a ‘severe disability premium’ in any of the legacy benefits. In this case, you cannot make a new claim for UC, but can claim (other) legacy benefits instead. Specifically, if you currently get, or, in the last month, got, a severe disability premium in one of the old benefits, and you continue to meet the criteria for this (generally, the criteria are that you get an award of PIP daily living component or DLA middle or high rate care component; no one gets carer’s allowance or similar for you; and you live alone (some exceptions apply)), then you must claim the old benefits rather than UC.
Note that as announced in the Budget on 29 October 2018, there is an increase in the work allowance for UC from April 2019. The work allowance – an amount parents and people with an illness/disability can earn before UC starts to reduce – is increasing by around £1,000 a year. This means an extra £670 or so of UC over a year for most working parents. If you are a student and are eligible for a work allowance, and your UC stopped because your income was too high, you may be entitled again from April 2019 and you should seek advice about whether to reclaim.
Remember advisers can phone CPAG in Scotland's advice line for advisers and frontline staff on 0141 552 0552 if you want to check what benefits a student can claim, or if you have any other questions about social security benefits. The advice line is available Monday –Thursday 10am – 4pm and Fridays 10am - 12 noon. You can also email your enquiries to [email protected]
When you finish a full-time course you no longer count as a student for benefit purposes, and can therefore claim benefits in the same way as anyone else. The date you can claim from is usually the day after the last day of the final academic year of your course.
If you need to claim a benefit which has been replaced by universal credit (UC) (see the list of ‘legacy benefits’ above), you must usually claim UC. A claim for UC begins with an ‘assessment period’ of one month, and the rules specify that you do not count as a student in the assessment period in which your course ends. This means you should be able to claim UC from around 4 weeks before the end of your course. Claim online at www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit. Payment is usually made a week after the assessment period ends. This means it is usually at least five weeks from claiming UC to being paid. If you are in hardship while waiting for your first UC payment you can ask for a short-term advance. This is repayable from your UC award. See here for more information about short-term advances in UC.
Note also that your student income is not counted as income in the ‘assessment period’ in which your course ends.
Claire’s course ends on 7 June 2019. She claims UC on Monday 13 May. Her first assessment period runs from 13 May to 12 June. She leaves her course as expected on 7 June and therefore is no longer a student for UC, and her student loan is no longer taken into account as income. Her first payment is made on 20 June, and she receives her maximum UC amount on this date as no student income is counted.
As well as UC you should claim council tax reduction from the local authority to reduce your council tax bill.
As explained above, if you already get a legacy benefit that includes a ‘severe disability premium’, or you got such a benefit that included a severe disability premium in the last month, and you continue to satisfy the rules for it, then you cannot claim UC but can claim other legacy benefit instead when your course ends.
If this applies, this would allow you, for example, to claim jobseeker's allowance if you are looking for work, to claim income support if you are a lone parent with a child under five, or a carer for a disabled person, or to claim income-related employment and support allowance because you are ill/disabled. It would also allow you to claim housing benefit if you are liable for rent and have a low income.
If you live in ‘specified’ supported or temporary (homeless) accommodation you can still claim HB for help with rent. You may need to claim this together with UC for your living costs.
Now that you are no longer a full-time student you may be liable for council tax, but if you have a low income you should claim council tax reduction from the local authority to reduce your bill.
From 10 December 2018 the best start grant was introduced in Scotland. The pregnancy and baby payment is part of the new best start grant. This payment, which is either £600 (for a first baby) or £300, replaces the Sure Start maternity grant in Scotland. The grant helps low income families with the costs of pregnancy or having a new baby. Some students are entitled to the pregnancy and baby payment.
You may be entitled to the pregnancy and baby payment as a student if you are under 18, or getting a ‘qualifying benefit’. Qualifying benefits are universal credit, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support, housing benefit, pension credit, child tax credit and working tax credit. You can claim from 25 weeks of pregnancy up until your baby is 6 months old.
For more information see CPAG online resources and Information on training.