Students and benefits e-bulletin June 2019 | CPAG

Students and benefits e-bulletin June 2019

Date: 
23 June 2019

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In this issue:
Student handbook online update

The online version of the Benefits for Students in Scotland handbook 2018/19 has been updated and is available at www.onlinepublications.cpag.org.uk (use the + key at the left of the page to open the book and navigate to the different chapters). The new edition for 2019/20 will be available in Autumn 2019. Go to our online shop.

Students and benefits factsheets

The following student and benefits factsheets have recently been updated and available on www.cpag.org.uk/content/students-and-benefits-project:

  • universal credit and students
  • universal credit for lone parent students
  • benefits and tax credits for lone parents students
  • benefits and tax credits for European students

The factsheets can be downloaded and handed out to students, or used for reference. Note: the students and tax credits factsheet will no longer be updated, as new claims cannot usually be made for tax credits.

Claiming benefit in the summer

Full-time students may, in some circumstances, be able to claim social security benefits over the summer vacation between years of the course. If you are doing a course which is longer than one year, the rules say that you still count as a student and can only claim benefit in exceptional circumstances.

You can claim UC between years of your course if you are a parent student, although depending on the age of your children you may have to look for work in order to get the full amount of UC paid to you. You can also get UC if you are a student who is ill/disabled and gets DLA or PIP, or if you are a student with a partner who is not a student.

You must usually claim UC rather than legacy benefits, but if you already get legacy benefits you can stay on them. Note: if you have a ‘severe disability premium’ in a legacy benefit already, you cannot claim UC, but can still make new claims for legacy benefits. See www.cpag.org.uk/content/sdp-gateway for more information about when this might apply.

You should get a better-off calculation to see if you are better off overall staying on legacy benefits or claiming UC.

Claiming benefit after a course ends - update

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.

You must usually claim UC rather than legacy benefits, but if you already get legacy benefits you can stay on them. Note: if you have a ‘severe disability premium’ in a legacy benefit already, you cannot claim UC, but can still make new claims for legacy benefits. See www.cpag.org.uk/content/sdp-gateway for more information about when this might apply.

Claim online at www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit. An ‘assessment period’ of one month follows the date of claim, and payment is usually made a week later. 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 www.cpag.org.uk/stba/uc-advances for more information about short-term advances.

Student income is not counted as income in the ‘assessment period’ in which your course ends. This means students eligible for UC whose UC stopped because income was too high can reclaim in the last month of their course, when student income is ignored.

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 benefits 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.

Caselaw – time out of a modular course

Recent case CE/1882/2018 found that some students taking time out of a modular course may no longer count as students and therefore be able to claim ESA under the normal rules.

In this case the claimant was on a university course and completed two years. However, for reasons of ill-health he had agreed with the university that he would 'intermit' his studies for a year. His ESA was initially refused on the ground that he was receiving education and therefore not entitled (as he did not get PIP or DLA).

The Upper tribunal found that the tribunal had erred by applying the test for non-modular courses in regulation 17(1)(b) of the ESA Regulations 2008, rather than investigating the facts further to ascertain whether he had the benefit of the potentially more favourable rules for modular courses in regulation 17(1)(a) which provides -

17.—(1) For the purposes of the definition of "education" in regulation 14, a person is to be regarded as undertaking a course of study –

(a) subject to paragraph (2), in the case of a person undertaking a part of a modular course that would be a course of study for the purposes of these Regulations, for the period beginning on the day on which that part of the course starts and ending -

(i) on the last day on which the person is registered with the educational establishment as attending or undertaking that part as a full-time course of study; or
(ii) on such earlier date (if any) as the person finally abandons the course or is dismissed…

Finding that each year of study could amount to 'part' of a modular course, the Judge ruled that in this case the claimant had completed his second year successfully and that he had never embarked on the next 'part' of that course, namely the third year. Therefore, when he claimed ESA he was not ‘undertaking a part of a modular course' as the previous part had ended on the last day of his second year of study. The claimant was thus not receiving education and not excluded from entitlement to ESA.

Note: similar wording applies to universal credit (Regulation 13(1)(b) of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013), and therefore a student taking time out of a modular course where they have finished one ‘part’ and not yet started the next, may be able to claim universal credit.

Best start grant latest information

The Best start grant is a new grant from Scottish Government, replacing Sure start maternity grants in Scotland. Payments include a:

  • Pregnancy and baby payment of £600 (£300 if 2nd or subsequent child). Apply from 24 weeks pregnant to 6 months after the birth
  • Early learning payment of £250 if you have a child between 2 – 3.5 years. Apply from 2nd birthday to 3.5 years.
  • School age payment of £250 in 2019/20 if you have a child born between 1 March 2014 and 28 February 2015

You are eligible if:

  • you are under 18, or aged 18 or 19 and someone else is claiming child benefit, CTC or UC for you; or
  • you get a ‘qualifying benefit’ (universal credit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, pension credit, housing benefit, child tax credit or working tax credit)

See our online resource or more information