Students and benefits ebulletin - March 2022

Date: 
20 April 2022

Hello and welcome to the March 2022 edition of CPAG in Scotland's students and benefits e-bulletin, keeping you up-to-date with changes to benefits and tax credits which are relevant to students.

In this issue:

Students and benefits online training courses for all levels

We are delivering online training courses via zoom on benefits for students in May and June 2022. There’s a level to suit everyone:

Students and benefits - the basics on 12 May (half-day)

As the name suggests this is a basic level course, and is a brief overview of which students may be eligible for which benefits. No prior benefit knowledge is necessary.

Students and benefits - eligibility on 13 and 14 June (two half-days)

This is a standard level course and aims to give you a thorough knowledge of which students can claim universal credit and other benefits. The course also explains how student funding interacts with universal credit and other means-tested benefits. Information on who counts as a full-time student for benefits will also be part of the course.

Students and benefits – an update on 1 June (half-day)

Make sure you know how recent benefit changes are likely to affect students. This experienced level course is for advisers with a good working knowledge of the benefits and tax credits systems as they apply to students, and mainly updates advisers on changes, rather than on existing rules.

Remember that we can also deliver online training via zoom for you and your colleagues ‘inhouse’ for up to 15 staff members from your organisation/partner organisations. This includes the courses above, and other students and benefits courses such as ‘introduction to benefits for student advisers’, and ‘universal credit and students’.

For more information go to Full programme of online training courses in Scotland or click on the link to the new Students and benefits project flyer here.

DWP Train and Progress

DWP Train and Progress allows work coaches to refer people on UC to full-time training opportunities of up to 12 weeks in length. The aim is to ‘ensure those receiving UC and in the intensive work search group can take advantage of sector-specific training’ (see announcement at www.gov.uk/government/news/universal-credit-claimants-tap-into-employment). The initiative has recently been extended to April 2023 and is for those in the intensive work search regime – ie, those who are expected to do full work search.

This might include courses such as skills boost or other ‘upskilling’ courses, which are available in Scotland. Note: usually, attending a full-time course would mean UC stops, unless the student is in one of the groups of students eligible for UC (parents, certain disabled students, young estranged etc students in FE, or someone living with a non-student partner). But being referred via DWP Train and Progress should mean UC can continue while on a short course of up to 12 weeks in length.

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.

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 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. However, note that this is repayable from your UC award (over 24 months).

Student income is not counted as income in the ‘assessment period’ in which your course ends. This means students eligible for UC (eg, parents) 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 10 June 2022. 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 16 May. She is eligible for UC because she is a parent. Her first assessment period runs from 16 May to 15 June. Her student loan is not taken into account as income in this assessment period, as this is the assessment period in which her course ends. Her first payment is made on 22 June, and she receives her maximum UC amount on this date as no student income is counted.

Note that if you live in ‘specified’ supported or temporary (eg, 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.

Carer’s assistance consultation

Scottish Government have launched their consultation on Scottish carer’s assistance, and asks for your views on proposals for how Scottish carer’s assistance could be different from carer’s allowance. Importantly, one proposal is to allow full-time students to claim Scottish carer’s asistance (currently full-time students cannot usually get carer’s allowance). The consultation closes 23 May 2022.

Student funding changes

SAAS have announced some changes for the academic year 2022/23:

  • The student loan for maintenance is increasing by £350 a year.
  • Eligible students who completed their course of study prior to 2002-03 will be able to re-access education and financial support.
  • Students in receipt of a care-experienced bursary (CEB) of £8,100 (ie, in higher education) will now have the option to spread their SAAS payments over 12 months, from academic session 2022/2023. Such students will be able to choose their preferred payment option, over term time or 12 months, when they apply to SAAS each year. Students on a one year course or in the final year of their course are not eligible to apply.

Note that care-experienced students eligible for UC would have the full £8100 taken into account over the academic year, as usual, as there are no changes to how income is apportioned by UC. For example, the CEB of £8100 would be divided across the months of study and the first £110 pm disregarded. This could mean a student choosing to receive 12 monthly payments would have an amount deducted from their UC over the academic year which is more than their monthly payment of CEB. The students who are most likely to be adversely impacted by this are lone parents or parent couples. They should seek advice from a student adviser or citizens advice bureau. As always, advisers can contact CPAG’s second-tier helpline for advice for individual students (see below).

Example:

Hazel is a lone parent and gets UC of £1200 per month (pm). She starts a degree course and is eligible for a care-experienced bursary (CEB) of £8,100. This counts as income for UC of £790pm over the academic year. Her UC reduces to £410pm over the academic year then back up to £1200pm in the summer vacation. This is the same whether she chooses to have the CEB over term time or over 12 months. If she opts to have the CEB over 12 months, £675pm, her income over the academic year will be around £1085pm, lower than her UC maximum amount, so she is likely to struggle financially. She would be better off having the CEB over term time (usually £810pm, with a double payment in the first month), so her income will be around £1220pm.

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]