Hello and welcome to the September 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:
- Student handbook NEW EDITION
- Students and benefits online training courses
- Disabled students and universal credit
The Benefits for Students in Scotland Handbook for 2020/21 (18th edition) is now published! The handbook is fully updated for the new academic year, with all the relevant benefit changes and student support rates.
Order it now here.
The online version of the Benefits for Students in Scotland handbook 2020/21 is available free.
We are delivering two training courses via zoom on benefits for students in the next few months. These are:
Universal credit and students on 6 & 7 October (two half-days)
This course will give you a good grounding of the rules governing which students can claim universal credit, how Scottish student income is treated, and some of the problem areas. This is a standard level course for people with some knowledge of the benefits system. It includes some calculations of how student funding affects universal credit.
Student and benefits – an update on 24 November (half-day)
This course is aimed at experienced advisers, to provide an essential annual update on changes in the benefits system which might affect students, particularly in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
We can also deliver online training via zoom for you and your colleagues ‘inhouse’ – ie, to up to 12 staff members from your organisation/partner organisations. Any of these courses can be tailored to meet your needs more specifically. This includes the two courses above, and the following students and benefits courses:
Students and benefits - the basics (half-day course)
As the name suggests this is a basic level course, and is a brief overview of which students may be eligible for which benefits.
Introduction to benefits for student advisers (one day equivalent, delivered over 2 mornings)
Again this is at an introductory/basic level, and explains a bit about the different benefits available and which students may be able to get them It also explains in brief what student funding is available and looks briefly at how student funding might affect benefits.
Students and benefits – eligibility in FE and HE (one day equivalent, delivered over 2 mornings)
This is a standard level course for people who have a general understanding of the benefits system, and want to know in some detail what the student rules are for benefits. It includes some calculations of how student funding affects benefits.
New regulations have come into force from 5 August 2020 (The Universal Credit (Exceptions to the Requirement not to be receiving Education) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, No. 827) which restrict claims for universal credit (UC) to those students with a disability who have already (before starting studying) been found to have limited capability for work for UC (and also get PIP/DLA). This confirms the policy intention that such students cannot claim UC and be assessed under the UC rules for limited capability for work (LCW). The explanatory memorandum states ‘The policy enables disabled people already assessed as LCW to enter or remain in education.’
This means that the possibility of a disabled student on PIP/DLA making a claim for UC and asking to be assessed for LCW is no longer possible (as suggested in the ‘ask for UC claim not to be decided’ section of the Welfare Rights Bulletin article here). Instead, the other option set out in this article, of applying for contributory ESA and being assessed for LCW via this mechanism, remains the best option for students in these circumstances to qualify for UC as a disabled student.
In non-advanced/further education (FE) (below the level of HNC), it may be possible for a disabled student to qualify for UC under a different provision. This is all possible if such a student does not count as ‘receiving education’ for UC. The definition of receiving education for those in further education is that you are (regulation 12 UC Regs 2013):
–a qualifying young person. This applies if you are in non-advanced education of at least 12 hours a week and have not yet reached 31 August after your 19th birthday; or
–on another full-time course for which a loan, grant or bursary is provided for your maintenance; or
– on a course that is not compatible with your ’work-related requirements’ (ie, what you are expected to do in terms of looking for work.
If an FE student is not awarded an FE bursary maintenance allowance, and is also not a qualifying young person, and doesn’t fall foul of the work-related requirements provision – eg, because they don’t have work-related requirements, or have only minimal requirements due to their disability, then they will not fit within the definition of receiving education for UC. This means a claim for UC can succeed straightforwardly under the normal rules, without invoking the special rules for students.
Note that these two options have been confirmed in an email from DWP to CPAG.
Late course start dates and impact on universal credit
Some colleges and universities have delayed the course start dates for autumn 2020, because of the coronavirus outbreak. This mainly applies to higher education courses. While the course will start late, student funding from SAAS will still be paid on the original (earlier) dates.
For anyone who is receiving universal credit, the rules change when they start the course, not when they start receiving student funding. This is confirmed by regulation 13 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013, which says that someone is regarded as undertaking a course of education ‘… beginning on the date on which the person starts undertaking the course’.
Once someone becomes a student they are usually no longer eligible for universal credit from the assessment period (see definition below) in which the course starts (with a few exceptions for students in higher education who can continue to get universal credit - mainly parents, students living with a non-student partner, some disabled students).
Assessment period: this is the period of one month running from the date of someone’s universal credit claim, and is usually the same dates every month. For example, if you claim universal credit on 21/9/20, every month your assessment period will run from 21st to the 20th of the month (with payment generally on the 27th of each month, one week after the assessment period ends). Your circumstances during this period influence whether and how much universal credit you are paid for that period.
Student income which is paid before the course starts, and before someone becomes a student, would not count as income, as student income only counts if paid while someone is a student. The Universal Credit Regulations 2013 regulation 68 specify that ‘a person who is undertaking a course of education… is to be treated as having student income in respect of…an assessment period in which the course begins’.
These rules apply whether someone gets a student loan, nursing and midwifery bursary or a care-experienced bursary. Note that care-experienced students in higher education would still only be eligible for universal credit in the same way as other students (ie, if they are a parent themselves, live with a non-student partner or in some cases are a student with a disability).
To summarise, students who are eligible for universal credit before they start the course may be eligible for longer if the course start date is delayed - until the assessment period in which the course starts. If the course ends correspondingly later then they will not be eligible for universal credit until after the last day of the course. So the change moves their UC entitlement to fit in with the new course dates.
Karen is getting universal credit, with assessment periods running 21st to 20th each month. She is starting a course on 5th October, delayed from 12th September. She is not eligible for universal credit in the assessment period in which she starts the course (ie, assessment period 21st September to 20th October). Her universal credit stops on 20th September (final payment 27th September), the assessment period before the one in which her course starts. If her course had started on the original 12th September date, she would not have been eligible for universal in the assessment period 21st August to 20th September. The change in the course start date means she gets an extra month of universal credit.
Some students are eligible for universal credit throughout the course. This mainly applies to students who are a parent themselves, who live with a non-student partner, or, in some cases, who are a student with a disability.
If someone gets universal credit and is already on a course of education which continues this autumn, that person already counts as a student. This is because regulation 13 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 says that you are a student from the day you start undertaking the course until the last day of the course (unless you abandon or are dismissed from it earlier). If student income is paid to a continuing student before the next year of the course starts, then it would be included in the calculation of student income (because they are already a student). However it would only start being taken into account from the assessment period ‘in which the second or subsequent year begins’ (Universal Credit Regulations 2013 regulation 68(1)(b)).
Michael is a higher education student. He is a lone parent of a 7-year-old child. He gets UC and his assessment periods are 15th to 14th each month. He is starting the 2nd year of his course on 5th October (delayed from 12th September). He gets a payment of student income before the 2nd year of the course starts. His universal credit is recalculated from the assessment period in which the course starts (15th September to 14th October), to take account of his student income, including the payment made before the 2nd year of the course starts.