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State benefits

If you are currently claiming state benefits some of them might stop once you become a full time student, however there are still some that you may be entitled to alongside any student funding you get. The benefits you can apply for depend on your circumstances and whether you’re studying full- or part-time.

You count as a student from the first day until the last day of the course or if you do not complete it, until the day you are dismissed from or abandon the course. This means that you count as a student even during holidays and when taking time out from studying, unless certain circumstances apply.

If you are a full-time student and you live with a partner who is not a student, they may be able to claim means-tested benefits for you both. Some of your student support may be taken into account.

For up to date and personalised benefits advice we advise that you book an appointment to speak to a member of your local Citizens Advice you can also use their online calculator to see if you may be eligible to claim for any support.

Here’s an overview of the different benefits with links to more information.

Income Support helps people who do not have enough to live on. It is only available for certain groups of people who do not get Jobseeker's Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance and are not in full time employment. The actual amount you get depends on your circumstances.

Income support is a means-tested benefit which means entitlement is based on your income and savings and other capital, which will be looked at to see if they are low enough for you to qualify.

Most full-time students are not entitled to Income Support. However, you may be entitled to this benefit as a full-time student if you are:

  • A lone parent with a child under five
  • A lone foster parent of a child under 16
  • Receiving long-term Incapacity Benefit
  • A refugee who is learning English to obtain employment
  • Under 21 or reached 21 whilst enrolled on or accepted on a full-time non-advanced course and you are without parental support

If you would qualify for Income Support if you were not a full-time student and you are a lone parent or a member of a couple with a child where both of you are full-time students, you can claim during your summer holidays.

If you receive student support in the form of a grant or loan, this will probably reduce the amount of Income Support you can get.

Housing Benefit is money to help you with your housing costs if you are on a low income. It can help can help with rent and some service charges. If you are a full-time student, you can get Housing Benefit if you meet one of the following examples of conditions:

  • you receive Income Support (IS) or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • you are a lone parent or a member of a couple who are responsible for a child and are both full-time students (this applies throughout the year not just during summer holidays)
  • you are a lone foster carer with a child formally placed with you by a local authority or voluntary agency
  • you receive Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance, the disability or severe disability element of Working Tax Credit or a War Pensioner’s Disability Supplement
  • you or your partner are registered blind
  • you have been unable to work due to sickness or disability for at least 28 weeks
  • you qualify for a disabled student’s allowance because you are deaf
  • you take time out from your course because of illness or caring responsibilities in certain circumstances
  • you are over Pension Credit age and neither you nor your partner are getting  Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance . If you qualify for guaranteed Pension Credit you will receive maximum entitlement to Housing Benefit.

If you receive student support, in the form of a grant or loan, this will usually reduce the amount of Housing Benefit you can get; unless you also get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance in which case you will automatically receive your maximum entitlement to Housing Benefit.

Tax credits are payments from the UK government. You don’t pay tax on the money you receive, and you don’t need to pay it back. The tax credits system has replaced parts of the government’s student support package, so if you’re entitled to any tax credits it’s very important that you apply for them.

There are two kinds of tax credit – you may be able to get both kinds:

Child Tax Credit

You may be able to claim Child Tax Credit (CTC) if you or your partner is responsible for at least one child who normally lives with you. Your child must be either under 16 years old, or under 20 years old and in full-time education or training that’s approved by the government.

You get money for each child you’re responsible for – the basic amount is up to £545 a year, plus extra depending on your income and circumstances (this figure is for 2013). If your child is disabled you’re entitled to even more money, depending on the severity of their disability.

Here’s the government’s information about Child Tax Credit.

Working Tax Credit

You may be able to claim Working Tax Credit (WTC) if you’re 16 years old or older and working for at least 16 hours a week in paid employment, and you’re disabled and/or have a child. If you’re not disabled and don’t have children, you may be able to claim if you’re between 25 and 59 years old and working for at least 30 hours a week, or 60 years old or older and working for at least 16 hours a week.

There are lots of rules about what counts as ‘working’, so check what this means for you. If you work as a student nurse as part of your course, this doesn’t count as work for the purposes of tax credits.

You get a basic amount of up to £1,920 a year, plus extra depending on your income and circumstances (this figure is for 2013). If you’re disabled you’re entitled to even more money, depending on the severity of your disability, and anyone who pays for childcare can get a contribution towards that as well.

If you get student funding from the government that includes support for childcare costs, it’s usually more generous than the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit, but it may better for you or your partner to claim the Working Tax Credit childcare element in other circumstances. Speak to an adviser if you’re uncertain which is better for you (contact details below).

If you’re eligible to receive tax credits, the amount of money you get depends on your income, but most student income is ignored when working out what you’re entitled to. If you live with a partner, their income is taken into account along with yours. If your income (or your partner’s income) is too high, you might not get any tax credits.

To get any tax credits you must be in the UK, ordinarily resident here and have a right to reside in the UK. You’re not eligible if you’re subject to immigration control, but you can still claim as a couple if your partner isn’t subject to immigration control.

If you go abroad as part of your course you can’t get tax credits while you’re away.

To find out if you may be eligible to receive tax credits you can use the government’s tax credit questionaire here.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Contributory ESA

If you are not able to work due to illness or disability, you may be entitled to contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) while you are a full-time student if you have previously worked and paid national insurance contributions.

Income-related ESA

As a full time student you will only be able to claim income-related Employment and Support Allowance if you are also getting Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment.

If you are a full time student who is getting DLA you count as having limited capability for work without having to have a Work Capability Assessment.

If you receive student support in the form of a grant or a loan, this will probably reduce the amount of income-related ESA you can get.

Work Capability Assessment

You are only entitled to ESA if you satisfy the Work Capability Assessment. If activities you do as part of your course suggests that you do not meet this test, you could lose this benefit. For example, if you are getting ESA because you said you have problems with walking and your course involves a lot of physical activity, this could cause your ESA claim to be reviewed.

Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance

You can get Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance even if you are a full-time student.

If you have disabilities, are aged under 65 and need help with your personal care or mobility needs, you can get Personal Independence Payment. If you need help with personal care and are aged 65 or over, you can get Attendance Allowance.

Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance are not means-tested. This means any income (including student grants or loans) or savings you have are ignored.

If activities you do as part of your course suggest that your health has improved, your Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance may stop. For example, if you are getting Personal Independence Payment because you said you have problems with walking and your course involves a lot of physical activity, this could cause your award to be reviewed.

Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance

You cannot make a new claim for Incapacity Benefit or Disability Living Allowance but if you are already claiming one of these benefits, you can continue to get them when you become a full-time student, as long as you still meet the criteria.

If activities you do as part of your course suggest that your health has improved, you could lose your benefit. For example, if you are getting Incapacity Benefit because you said you have problems with walking and your course involves a lot of physical activity, this could cause your Incapacity Benefit claim to be reviewed.

For more detailed information please contact your local Citizens Advice Service.

If you are a full-time student, whether you can get benefits during time out from study depends on the reason for taking time out and the benefit concerned.

You can continue to get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance during your time out from study, if you are a student who can get these benefits while studying.

Illness or caring responsibilities

If you are a full-time student and you need to take time out, for example due to illness or because you need to care for someone temporarily, you still count as a full-time student. You will therefore only qualify for the benefits you could get while studying.

If you aren't eligible for a student grant or loan, you may be entitled to Jobseeker's Allowance, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support for up to a year once your illness or caring responsibilities have come to an end. This is while you are waiting to re-join the course (for example, until the start of the next academic term). You may still be treated as having student support income, such as student loans or grants during this period.

Pregnancy

If you are a full-time student and you take time out from your studies because you are pregnant, you will not be able to get most means-tested benefits, unless you are a student who can qualify for these benefits while studying.

Once the baby is born, you may then be able to get

  • Income Support if you are a lone parent
  • Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support (if you are a lone parent or a member of a couple who are responsible for a child and are both full-time students)
  • Maternity Allowance or Statutory Maternity Pay if you have been working.

Other reasons

If you are a full-time student and are taking time out from your studies for other reasons, such as to re-sit exams, you will still be treated as a full-time student and will not be able to claim means tested benefits, unless you are a student who can get these benefits while studying.

Universal credit (UC) is a new benefit which is due to replace most means-tested benefits by 2021 for people of working-age who are on a low income; it replaces six existing means-tested benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

Universal Credit is intended to be simpler than the current system of benefits and tax credits. It is paid on a monthly basis and entitlement is worked out by comparing your basic financial needs that the government says you need to live on with your financial resources.

Universal Credit is being introduced gradually. Whether you can claim depends on where you live and your personal circumstances. If you don’t live in a qualifying area or you are not eligible to claim Universal Credit you may be able to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or other means tested benefits

You don’t need to do anything if you are already claiming existing benefits. You will be told by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) when you have to claim Universal Credit. Universal Credit has not yet been rolled out to students and is currently only being used in some test areas of the UK, however if you have already been moved onto UC and have then become a student you may continue to claim UC under some circumstances.

The above information was correct at the time of writing however due to continuous changes to state benefits we strongly recommend seeking advice from trained specialists at either your local Citizens Advice Service or your Local Authority before making any claims.