Students and benefits ebulletin - March 2020 | CPAG

Students and benefits ebulletin - March 2020

Date: 
09 June 2020

Hello and welcome to the March 2020 edition of CPAG in Scotland's students and benefits ebulletin, keeping you up-to-date with changes to benefits and tax credits which are relevant to students.

In this issue:

NEW Students and benefits elearning

We are pleased to launch our first elearning course on benefits for students. This free course, Scottish student income and universal credit, helps you understand the impact of Scottish student loans and grants on universal credit. It should take around 45 minutes to complete and is free to take part. Visit the elearning zone to view and take part.

Students and benefits training courses

All of CPAG’s face to face training​ is currently suspended and will be rescheduled in due course.

Coronavirus - student support information

The Scottish Funding Council has published information on coronavirus. This includes a dedicated FAQ document for student support - with information on whether further education (FE) students should continue to be paid student support in various circumstances. The document will be updated regularly.

SAAS have also posted information about coronavirus on their website at www.saas.gov.uk/news/coronavirus, including an FAQ guide for higher education (HE) students.

Note that Scottish Government has announced an extra £350 million to help communities. This includes extra funding for Scottish Welfare Fund, which consists of crisis grants and community care grants. Students are not excluded from this help – if you have a low income you can apply. Applications are made via your local authority.

CPAG has produced some general information on coronavirus and benefits.

Universal credit update

The ‘full service’ of universal credit (UC) is fully rolled out. In most cases, 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 are already getting a ‘severe disability premium’ in income-based JSA, income support, income-related ESA or housing benefit. 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 legacy 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 legacy benefits rather than UC.

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 advice@cpagscotland.org.uk

Claiming benefits when a course ends

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 above, and cpag.org.uk/content/sdp-gateway for more information about when this might apply.

Claim online at 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. However, note that this is repayable from your UC award.

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.

Example

Jackie’s course ends on 5 June 2020. She is a parent with a six-year-old child, but did not get UC during the course because her student income was too high. She claims UC on Monday 18 May. She is eligible for UC because she is a parent. Her first assessment period runs from 18 May to 17 June. Her student loan is no longer taken into account as income from 18 May, as this is the assessment period in which her course ends. Her first payment is made on 24 June, and she receives her maximum UC amount on this date as no student income is counted.

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 (SDP) in the last month, and you continue to satisfy the conditions for the SDP, 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 (HB) if you are liable for rent and have a low income.

Note that if you live in ‘specified’ supported or temporary (homeless) accommodation you must 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.

Student funding update

There are few changes expected to student funding in the 2020-21 academic year. The changes announced so far are:

  • Removal of the age cap for the care-experienced bursary, so you no longer have to be under 26 at the start of your course to qualify.
  • Increase in the nursing and midwifery students’ bursary from £8,100 to £10,000 for new and continuing students.

Disability-related student support consultation

SAAS have been asked to lead on a review of disability-related student support in both Further and Higher Education in Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government. The survey will be used as evidence to support recommendations which will be presented to the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science in summer 2020. It will be available until Friday 3rd April 2020. Start the survey.