Students and benefits ebulletin - September 2021 | CPAG

Students and benefits ebulletin - September 2021

Date: 
20 October 2021

Hello and welcome to the June 2021 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:

Students and benefits online training courses

We are delivering two training courses via zoom on benefits for students in the next few months. These are:

This course will give you a good grounding in 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.

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 deliver online training via zoom for you and your colleagues ‘inhouse’ for up to 15 staff members from your organisation/partner organisations. See our project flyer here.

Student handbook NEW EDITION

The Benefits for Students in Scotland Handbook for 2021/22 (19th 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

The free online version of the Benefits for Students in Scotland handbook 2021/22 will be available soon at askcpag.org.uk/publications/Scotland

Universal credit for students update

There have been no recent changes to the rules about which students are eligible for universal credit (UC). CPAG in Scotland’s Universal credit and students factsheet sets out the rules about who counts as a student, which students can get UC (mainly parents, students with a non-student partner, some disabled students and young further education students who are without parental support), and how student funding affects UC.

Note that UC standard allowance rates, which were increased by £20 per week due to the pandemic, are to lose the extra £20pw (£86.67 per month) from October (to be precise, for any assessment period beginning on or after 7/9/21). There have been many calls for the reduction not to take place (see, eg, Keep the lifeline - open letter to the Prime Minister | JRF), but assuming it does take place, those on UC will see their awards reduce by £86.67 per month in their assessment period beginning on or after 7/9/21.

Someone counts as a student from the start to the end of the course. Where a course has had its end date changed, so that it lasts longer than was initially expected, someone will still count as a student until the new end date of the course. This means they will still be subject to the student rules for UC, until the new end date. It also means that they should continue to be exempt from council tax for the same period.

Note also that student income is taken into account from the assessment period (the period of one month that applies to someone’s UC award, which follows the date they claimed UC) in which the course starts, until the assessment period before the one in which the course ends, or before the one in which the summer vacation starts, where that course has a summer vacation.

Discretionary fund awards made after the end date of the course are ignored, as student income is not taken into account when someone is no longer a student. If such an award is taken into account, the student can challenge the decision quoting the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 regulation 68 which says that ‘a person who is undertaking a course of education… is to be treated as having student income…’ – this means that once they are no longer undertaking the course, student income should not be taken into account.

Other one-off payments from discretionary funds are treated as capital, and will not affect UC as long as the student’s (and any partner they are claiming with) total capital is under £6000.

Q & A: homeless students and benefits

A number of enquiries to our advice line in the past year have, worryingly, been about students who are homeless. Sometimes they are eligible for benefit, and sometimes not, as illustrated in the examples below. In homeless accommodation, rent amounts are generally met by housing benefit rather than UC, and amounts are typically far higher than in a mainstream rental property, meaning that support through the benefits system is more important than ever.

Q: A prospective further education student with a partner and three children live in homeless accommodation and get UC and housing benefit. Can he still claim these while studying?

We advised that he and his partner can continue to get UC when he is studying because he is a parent, and he can also continue to get housing benefit because he is passported to that from UC (as per regulation 56(2)(aa) of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006). Student funding (eg, bursary maintenance allowance) will count as income for UC (with £110 per month disregarded), but he should still get most of his UC, and full housing benefit to cover his high rent cost.

Q: A 32-year-old male living in temporary homeless accommodation plans to start a full-time HNC course. He has no disability, children or partner. Can he continue to get UC and housing benefit on the course?

No, he does not appear to meet any of the categories of student who are eligible for benefit. If he does start the course his benefits will stop, and he will have to rely on student funding. He may have to rethink whether or not he can afford to study, given these circumstances.

Paramedic student funding

From 2021/22 students undertaking a paramedic science degree at a Scottish university will be eligible for the same package of support as nursing and midwifery students. New and continuing paramedic degree students can get this.

Funding includes a non-means-tested bursary of £10,000 per year, as well as various means-tested allowances.

Note that the bursary is paid in 13 instalments over 12 months, and in the final year of a paramedic degree payments will continue to be paid over 12 months, even if the course ends before this.

There is more information here.