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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Benefits for higher education students with low incomes

Part-time students and certain groups of full-time students may sometimes be eligible for income-related benefits.

Benefits and financial support for students

If you’re doing a higher education course, you can apply for student finance to help fund your studies.

Full-time students can’t usually claim income-related benefits as well - but part-time students and certain groups of full-time students are sometimes eligible.

However, the rules on eligibility can be complex, and whether you can get income-related benefits will depend on your personal circumstances.

So even if you belong to a group which is eligible for income-related benefits, this doesn’t necessarily mean you'll get them - the income you get through student finance may be too high.

Where to go for advice

If you’re already claiming income-related benefits and want to start a higher education course, you should ask Jobcentre Plus and/or your local authority's Housing Benefit section how this will affect your benefits.

If you’re currently at university or college, a student adviser will be able to help you work out if you qualify for any benefits.

Who may be able to claim income-related benefits as a student?

Full-time students

Although most full-time higher education students are not entitled to income-related benefits, certain groups may be able to make a claim.

The full rules are listed in the Income Support and Housing Benefit regulations. But as a general guide, you may be able to claim income-related benefits if you:

  • are a lone parent
  • have a partner who is also a student - and one or both of you are responsible for a child
  • have a disability, and qualify for the disability premium, severe disability premium or income-related Employment and Support Allowance

If you have a partner who is not a student and they’re eligible for any income-related benefits, your partner can claim on behalf of you both.

Part-time students

Part-time students in higher education can also apply for income-related benefits if they’re on a low income and meet the relevant conditions. They don’t have to fall within one of the particular groups listed in the Income Support or Housing Benefit regulations.

Which income-related benefits might you be able to claim?

If you fall into one of the groups described above, whether you can get income-related benefits will depend on your personal circumstances - including your income and how much you have in savings.

Income-related benefits you may be able to claim are:

  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance
  • Council Tax Benefit

You can find out more by following the links below.

Which student loans and grants are counted as income?

When working out if you’re eligible for income-related benefits while you are a student, certain types of student finance will be counted as income.

Jobseeker's Allowance

Full-time students

If you’re studying full time, you may be able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance during the summer holiday if:

  • you're a lone parent
  • you have a partner who is also a full-time student, and one or both of you is responsible for a child or young person, and
  • you’re available for and actively seeking work

You may also be able to claim if you’re waiting to go back to a course, having taken approved time out for a period of up to one year because of an illness or caring responsibility that has now come to an end.

Part-time students

If you’re studying part time, you may be able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance if you are:

  • out of work or working less than 16 hours a week on average
  • capable of working
  • available for work
  • actively seeking work
  • below retirement age

Normally, you must also be aged 18 or over. You must be willing to go to a job interview, even if you have to take time off from your course. You should also be prepared to rearrange your hours of study to fit around a job.

Incapacity Benefit and contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance

Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are sources of support for people with an illness or disability that affects their ability to work. If you already claim one of these benefits, you may be able to carry on getting it as a student.

See ‘Financial help for disabled students’ for more information. You can also get advice from the Disability Officer or Student Services Officer at your college or university.

Other help

Working Tax Credit

You may be able to claim Working Tax Credit as either a full-time or part-time student if at least one of the following applies to you:

  • you’re aged 25 or over and normally work at least 30 hours a week
  • you’re responsible for a child or young person under 19 in full-time education at a level below NVQ level 4, degree, HND or equivalent - and you work 16 hours or more a week
  • you have a disability which puts you at a disadvantage in getting a job, satisfy the HM Revenue & Customs ‘qualifying benefit’ test or ‘fast track’ rules, and work 16 hours or more a week

If you receive the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit, you won’t be able to claim the Childcare Grant as well.

Child Tax Credit

You may be able to claim Child Tax Credit if you are a student and are responsible for a child. Higher rates are available if:

  • you have more than one child
  • your child is disabled
  • your child is under one year of age

Council tax and full-time students

Full-time students may be exempt from paying Council Tax, or eligible for a reduction in their Council Tax bill. Find out how to claim from your local authority, then ask your college or university to supply proof of your full-time student status.

More about student finance

You can find out more about the help available through student finance - including grants, and (for full-time students) student loans and bursaries - by following the link below.

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