State benefits for full-time students

Most full-time students are not eligible to claim benefits but there are some exceptions.

If you are in the UK on a student visa, or have any other type of limited leave to remain in the UK, do not claim any social security benefits without first getting advice, as you could breach your immigration conditions and this could seriously affect your visa.

The benefit system is changing. The introduction of Universal Credit replaces the following benefits:

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • some Social Fund payments

The Government intends to transfer current claims over to Universal Credit where a change of circumstance occurs and to eventually transfer all current benefit claims over to Universal Credit.

The eligibility rules about who can claim Universal Credit while studying are still subject to change. 

The following benefit information does not cover Universal Credit.  If you receive or intend to claim this, contact Student Advice if you would like to discuss your circumstances.

The Government has also introduced a benefit cap. This only affects people receiving Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. It limits the total amount of benefit a single person or couple with or without children can claim each week. For more information about the cap visit gov.uk and Citizens Advice.

If you are eligible to claim benefits while you are a student, you must also meet the general eligibility rules The following information assumes you meet these.

Am I eligible for benefits?

Most full-time students are not eligible to claim any benefits during their course, unless they meet the general benefit eligibility rules and are:

  • a single parent with a dependent child/children
  • a student in receipt of Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence payment
  • a student in receipt of Contributory Employment Support Allowance (this is time limited)
  • a Deaf student
  • a pensioner
  • part of a student couple with at least one dependent child
  • a student who has suspended studies due to ill health and who has recovered
  • a student who suspended due to caring responsibilities and these have now ended

Some of these groups may have a limited benefit/Universal Credit entitlement and may be not entitled to benefits all year round. The benefit rules are complex for students so if you believe you qualify for benefits or Universal credit while you are a student please contact Student Advice to discuss your individual circumstances and check your options. 

If you are not eligible to claim yourself but live with a partner who is not a full-time student, they may be eligible to claim instead, subject to the normal eligibility rules.

Note: full-time students cannot claim any benefit or Universal Credit during periods of suspension (time out) of their study unless they belong to one of the above groups.

How student funding affects benefits

If you are a full-time undergraduate student and eligible to receive Student Finance England funding, or you receive the SFE Postgraduate Student Loan these reduce benefit or Universal Credit payments to you or your partner.

You must inform the relevant benefit departments that you are a full time student and in receipt of student income. If you are already claiming benefits before starting your course, this is a change to your circumstances. You should provide evidence of your student income when making a new claim or updating an existing one, and this will be taken into account when deciding your entitlement to benefit.

If you live with a partner who claims income-based benefits or Universal Credits, they must also report this.  Your student income will reduce their benefit entitlement as it is treated as household income. Your partner will need to provide proof of your student income to the relevant benefit office/s.

Income-based Benefits and Universal Credit are reduced by the Student Finance England funding during term-time and the short vacations. This applies if a student is eligible for SFE funding even if they choose not to take this out. This is likely to mean that during the term-time and short vacations payments are reduced or stop all together. Summer claims should not be affected as student income does not count during July and August.

Other income may also reduce the amount paid e.g. earnings from part-time work.

If you have a mortgage to pay contact Student Advice for information on your benefit options.

If you receive Child Tax Credits and Child Benefits, these should continue as normal throughout the year and are not affected by student income.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Incapacity Benefit or Contributory Employment Support Allowance are not affected by your student income and should continue as usual.

Student income used in assessments

Undergraduate students

The Maintenance Loan, Maintenance Grant (if applicable) and Adults Dependents grant both count as income during term-time, including short vacations and reduce income based benefits or Universal Credit. This is the case even if you choose not to take out this funding.

You will need to provide proof of your Student Finance England funding to the relevant benefit office. Make sure you provide evidence that shows a breakdown of the different loans and grants you receive.  If you provide evidence that only shows the payment dates or your total funding entitlement your benefit or Universal Credit is likely to be incorrectly assessed and you may receive too little benefit as a result.

If you receive the Adult Dependent Grant for your partner or other adult who is financially dependent on you, this also counts as income during term-time and the short vacations.

If you began your course before September 2016 and are a single parent, part of a student couple, receive disability benefits or a state pension, make sure that Student Finance England award you the Special Support Grant instead of the Maintenance Grant. Both grants are for the same amount but the Special Support Grant is ignored as income when your benefit entitlement is calculated. If you receive the Maintenance Grant in error, your benefits will be reduced further by this grant. Note that you will normally be awarded the Maintenance Grant if you are not eligible to claim benefit yourself and your non-student partner is the benefit claimant.

If your course began in September 2016 or later, you will not be eligible for the Maintenance or Special Support Grant.  Instead, you will be eligible for a higher rate of Maintenance Loan. If you are eligible to claim benefits make sure this loan includes a ‘Special Support element’.  The Special Support element should be ignored as income for benefit purposes.  You will not normally be awarded the Special Element if you are not eligible to claim benefit yourself and your non-student partner is the benefit claimant.

All other Student Finance England grants are ignored as income and should not reduce benefits.  If you think the wrong income has been used, contact Student Advice.

Student Funding does not count as income during July and August, so benefits can be paid in full during this time unless you have income from another source e.g. earnings from work.  You’ll need to apply again if your benefit/Universal Credit has stopped or ask for an on-going claim to be re-assessed.

Note: Loss of certain benefits can affect eligibility to free NHS prescriptions and free school meals for your children. For information about qualifying for free school meals visit gov.uk. For information about the qualifying rules for help with NHS costs visit nhs.uk.

What if I don’t want the Maintenance Loan?

If you are eligible for funding but choose not to take the loan out, it will still count as income. The loan is only ignored if you are not eligible to receive it, and you can prove this to the relevant benefit department.

Postgraduate students

If you are eligible for the new SFE Postgraduate Loan, this will reduce your income-based benefits.   A maximum 30% of your maximum loan entitlement will be used as income. 

This loan does not count as income during July and August, so benefits can be paid in full during this time unless you have income from another source e.g. earnings from work.  You’ll need to apply again if your benefit/Universal Credit has stopped or ask for an on-going claim to be re-assessed.

Note: Loss of certain benefits can affect eligibility to free NHS prescriptions and free school meals for your children. For information about qualifying for free school meals visit gov.uk. For information about the qualifying rules for help with NHS costs visit nhs.uk.

What if I don’t want the Loan?

If you are eligible for funding but choose not to take the loan out, it will still count as income. The loan is only ignored if you are not eligible to receive it, and you can prove this to the relevant benefit department.

Any money you receive from another source towards living costs, e.g. Professional and Career Development Loan, will count as income and reduce your benefits. Money awarded specifically to pay for tuition fees should be ignored.

Claiming benefits at the end of a course

If you are in the UK on a student visa, or have any other type of limited leave to remain in the UK, you should not claim any social security benefits without first getting advice, in case you breach your immigration conditions.

If you need help with living or rent costs and meet the standard benefit eligibility rules, you can claim when your course has officially ended as you will no longer be registered as a student. However, if you are not a UK national a residence test and/or a right to reside in the UK test may be used to determine your benefit eligibility. This could affect your entitlement to receive benefits. This test is often used when assessing claims by EU/EEA nationals and family members.

Single people with no children may be required to claim Universal Credit. This is a new type of support and includes help with living and rent costs. This may depend on where you live in the UK.

Otherwise you may be able to claim other types of benefits depending on your circumstances. For example:

If you are liable to pay Council Tax you may be eligible for Council Tax support from your local council to help meet this cost. The amount of benefit paid depends on your income and/or your partner’s income if you live together. There are also restrictions on the maximum amount of Housing Benefit that can be paid depending on your age, circumstances and the area in which you live.

For general information about Social Security Benefits, visit the gov.uk website.

Further help and advice

The Student Advisers can guide you through your benefit options and entitlements, as well as help if things go wrong. For more details and to contact them please visit the Student Advice webpage. 

Most full-time students are not eligible to claim any benefits during their course, unless they are:

  • a single parent with a dependent child/children
  • a student with a disability, although not all disabled students are eligible
  • a pensioner
  • part of a student couple with at least one dependent child
  • a student who has suspended studies due to ill health and who has recovered
  • a student who suspended due to caring responsibilities and these have now ended

If you are not eligible to claim yourself but live with a partner who is not a full-time student, they may be eligible to claim instead, subject to the normal benefit rules. If you are a full-time undergraduate student and eligible to receive Student Finance England funding, this will reduce the amount of benefit paid to you and your partner. This applies even if you choose not to apply for any Student Finance England funding or grants.

If you receive the new Student Finance England postgraduate loan, this may also reduce your benefit entitlements. See the later section ‘How does student income affect my benefits’ for more details. To be eligible to receive benefits you must meet the general eligibility rules.

If you have a dependent child under five and you receive Child Benefit/Child Tax Credits for them, you are eligible to claim Income Support throughout the year.

You cannot claim Income Support if your youngest child is five or over. However, providing you receive Child Benefit or Tax Credits, you can claim Jobseekers Allowance during the summer vacation period. This only applies during the summer vacation and you have to meet the usual jobseeking requirements to be eligible.

If you pay rent, you are eligible to claim Housing Benefit throughout the year, providing you continue to be responsible for a child for whom you receive Child Benefit/Child Tax Credit.

If you have a mortgage to pay contact Student Advice for information on your benefit options.

If you are a full-time undergraduate student and eligible to receive Student Finance England funding, this will reduce the amount of Income Support (including any element to help with a Mortgage) or Housing Benefit paid to you during term-time – even if you choose not to apply for any funding. Summer claims should not be affected as student income does not count during July and August. For further information see the section “How student income affects benefits” later on this page.

Other income may also reduce the amount of benefit paid to you e.g. earnings from part-time work.

If you receive Child Tax Credits and Child Benefits, these should continue as normal.

If you claim or receive benefit, you must notify the relevant Benefit Office/DWP department that you are a full-time student and provide evidence of your student income as this is a change in your circumstances.

If you receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP), you are eligible to claim certain benefits as a full-time student.

DLA and PIP are not affected by your student status or income and should continue as usual.

If you receive Income Support or income-related Employment Support Allowance, you continue to be eligible to claim these, providing you continue to receive DLA or PIP.

You are also eligible for Housing Benefit if you pay rent. If you have a mortgage to pay, please get in touch with Student Advice.

There is an exception in the benefit rules that allow deaf students to claim.  Please contact Student Advice for details if this applies to you.

However even though you may be eligible for these benefits, if you are a full-time undergraduate student eligible to receive Student Finance England funding, this will reduce the amount of Income Support, Income-based Employment Support Allowance or Housing Benefit paid to you during term-time – even if you choose not to apply for any funding.  For further information see the section “How student income affects benefits” on this page.

If you receive non-income related Employment Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit, you are eligible to continue to receive these benefits even if you do not receive DLA or PIP. Your student income does not affect these. In most cases, if you receive any of the above benefits and you pay rent, you are also eligible to claim Housing Benefit, but again, your Student Finance England funding reduces the amount paid to you during term-time.

 

You can claim Housing Benefit throughout the year. One of you is eligible to claim Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) during the summer, subject to meeting the usual JSA requirements.

However, if one or both of you are full-time undergraduate students, and are eligible to receive Student Finance England funding, this will reduce the amount of Housing Benefit paid to you during term-time – even if you choose not to apply for any funding. Summer JSA claims should not be affected. For further information about this see the section “How student income affects benefits” on this page.

The benefit rules explain that you can claim Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) from the date you recover from your illness or the date your caring responsibilities end, up until you resume your studies or, for a maximum of 12 months – whichever comes first.

You will still need to meet the usual JSA rules and it’s likely you will have to prove your circumstances in order for your claim to be considered. Depending on your income, you may also be eligible to claim Housing Benefit during this time too.

No, unless you belong to one of the groups mentioned above. If you are registered on a full-time course, even if you are taking fewer modules than usual this year, you are not eligible to claim as you are still a full-time student.

When you begin your course, you must inform the relevant benefit offices that you have become a full-time student and provide evidence of your student income, so your eligibility and entitlement can be re-assessed.

If you live with a partner and they receive income based benefits, your student income will reduce their benefit entitlement too as it is treated as household income. They will need to provide proof of your this income to the relevant benefit offices.

How benefits are affected by income is different for undergraduate students and postgraduate students. Only income-based benefits are affected. Entitlement to Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Contributory-Based Employment Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment are unchanged by student income.

Undergraduate students

You will need to provide your Student Finance England Breakdown summary to the relevant benefit office to prove your student income. This provides a breakdown of the different loans and grants you receive.  If you provide evidence that only shows the total funding e.g. your payment schedule, your benefit is likely to be incorrectly assessed and you may receive too little benefit as a result.

In most cases, the Maintenance Loan cancels out payments of Income Support or income-based Employment Support Allowance during term-time, including short vacations.  It also reduces Housing Benefit during term-time, including the short vacations, too. This is the case even if you choose not to apply for the loan.

If you began your course before September 2016 and are a single parent or part of a student couple or receive disability benefits or a state pension, make sure that Student Finance England award you the Special Support Grant instead of the Maintenance Grant. Both grants are for the same amount but the Special Support Grant is ignored as income when your benefit entitlement is calculated. If you receive the Maintenance Grant in error, your benefits will be reduced further by this grant. Note that if you are not eligible to claim benefit yourself but your non-student partner is claiming benefit, you will normally receive the Maintenance Grant.

If you begin your course in September 2016 or later, you will not be eligible for either the Maintenance or Special Support Grant.  Instead, you will be eligible for a higher rate of Maintenance Loan consisting of a maintenance element and a special support element.  The special Support element should be ignored as income for benefit purposes.

If you receive the Adult Dependant’s Grant for your partner or other adult who is financially dependent on you, this counts as income during term-time, including short vacations and will reduce any income-based benefits.

All other Student Finance England grants are ignored as income and should not reduce your benefits.

The Maintenance Loan and all of the grants do not count as income during July and August, so benefits can be paid in full during this time unless you have income from another source (e.g. earnings from work). You’ll need to contact your benefit office to re-apply or to be re-assessed.

Note: Loss of Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance/Employment Support Allowance means you lose automatic entitlement to free NHS prescriptions and free school meals for your children. You may qualify under different rules. For information about qualifying for free school meals visit gov.uk. For information about the qualifying rules for help with NHS costs visit nhs.uk.

What if I don’t want the Maintenance Loan?

The relevant benefit office will assume that you have taken out your maximum. Maintenance Loan entitlement whether or not you actually have. If you choose not to take the loan out, it will still be counted as income. The loan is only ignored if you are not eligible to receive it, and you can prove this to the relevant benefit department.

Postgraduate students: Although you are not eligible to receive the SFE Maintenance Loan or any of the other Student Finance England grants, you may be eligible for the new SFE Postgraduate Loan.  This loan is not paid specifically for tuition fees or maintenance/ study costs. How this loan will affect benefits is currently under consideration and we will update this page when further information becomes available.

Any money you receive from another source towards living costs, eg Professional and Career Development Loan, will count as income and reduce your benefits. Money awarded specifically to pay for tuition fees should be ignored.

If you are in the UK on a student visa, or have any other type of limited leave to remain in the UK, you should not claim any social security benefits without first getting advice, as you could breach your immigration conditions.

If you need help with living or rent costs and meet the standard benefit rules, you can claim when your course has officially ended as you will no longer be registered as a student. However, if you are not a UK national or you have not lived and worked in the UK for very long, a residence test will be used when assessing your benefit eligibility and this may affect your entitlement to receive some benefits. This specifically applies to some EU/EAA nationals and family members.

There are different types of state benefits available depending on your circumstances. For example you could claim:

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance if you are looking for work
  • Employment Support Allowance if you have limited capability for work because of disability or illness
  • Income Support if you are a single parent and have a dependent child under 5

If you meet the eligibility rules you could also claim Housing Benefit if you have rent to pay and if you are liable to pay Council tax, may be eligible for Council Tax support from your local council to help meet this cost. The amount of benefit paid depends on your income and/or your partner’s income if you live together. There are also restrictions on the amount of Housing Benefit that can be paid depending on your age, circumstances and the area in which you live.

For general information about Social Security Benefits, visit the gov.uk website.

 

The Student Advisers can guide you through your benefit options and entitlements, as well as help if things go wrong. For more details and to contact them please visit the Student Advice webpage.