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Helping You Meet the Costs of Learning: Funding for Disabled Students 2008-2009

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Welfare benefits and tax credits

As a disabled person you may be in receipt of certain welfare benefits. This section explains how different benefits are affected by starting a course of study.

For general enquiries about benefits or to apply for any welfare benefits, you should contact your local Jobcentre Plus or a Citizens Advice Bureau. You can also check the information about benefits for students in Scotland available from the Child Poverty Action Group website at: http://scottishhandbooks.cpag.org.uk/

Remember!

With all benefits you should check out how studying will affect your benefits before you start the course. You must inform your local Jobcentre Plus of any major change in your circumstances as soon as it occurs.

The following quick guide sets out the effect of studying on your eligibility for certain welfare benefits. Please note that this guide should only be used as a general indication of how the benefits you are already claiming may be affected - you must meet the usual eligibility criteria for each benefit in order to receive these benefits. If you think you may be entitled to any of these benefits, you should contact your local Jobcentre Plus to discuss your eligibility and how much you might be able to claim.

Welfare benefit

Studying part-time

Studying full-time

Carer's Allowance ( CA)

Continue to claim CA (p 36)

Cannot claim CA (p 36)

Council Tax Benefit ( CTB)

Continue to claim CTB (p 36)

Most students are not liable to pay Council Tax. If you are liable, you may be able to claim CTB if you meet certain conditions (p 36)

Disability Living Allowance ( DLA)

DLA is not usually affected by studying (p 32)

DLA is not usually affected by studying (p 32)

Health benefits

Can claim if you are eligible for IS or income-based JSA, or CTC and have a low income, or WTC with a disability or severe disability element and have a low income (p 36)

Can claim if you are under 19, or are eligible for IS or income-based JSA, or CTC and have a low income, or WTC with a disability or severe disability element and have a low income (p 36)

Housing Benefit ( HB)

Continue to claim HB

Can only claim HB if you meet certain conditions (p 35)

Incapacity Benefit/ Employment and Support Allowance

See p 31

See p 31

Income Support ( IS)

Continue to claim IS (p 34)

Can only claim IS if you meet certain conditions (p 34)

Jobseekers Allowance ( JSA)

Can only claim if you meet certain conditions (p 33)

Can claim in limited circumstances (p 33)

Severe Disablement Allowance ( SDA)

See p 32

See p 32

Tax Credits

Continue to claim Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit (p 36)

Continue to claim Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit (p 36)

How is Incapacity Benefit/Employment and Support Allowance affected by studying?

Incapacity Benefit is for people incapable of work. This is a contributions-based benefit paid at a set rate. There is also a non-contributions based type of incapacity benefit for younger people. Incapacity Benefit gives people of working age a replacement income when they cannot work or look for work because of ill health or a disability.

From 27 October 2008, Incapacity Benefit will be replaced by the Employment and Support Allowance ( ESA) for all new claimants. This new allowance will also replace Income Support for people who are claiming Income Support on the grounds of incapacity or as a disabled student. People who already receive Incapacity Benefit will continue to receive this benefit. However, the intention is to transfer everyone over to the new system over time.

The focus of this new benefit is to consider what you are capable of, rather than what you cannot do, and what help you need to return to work in the future. In order to assess this, some claimants will be asked to undertake a test called the 'Work Capability Assessment' which assesses your capability for work and work-related activities (disabled students who receive Disability Living Allowance do not need to undertake this assessment in order to claim ESA). This can result in three possible outcomes:

  • you are assessed as being able to take part in at least some type of "work-related activity", and you will receive the work-related activity component of ESA as well as the basic allowance; or
  • you are assessed as having "limited capability for work-related activity", and you will receive the support component of ESA as well as the basic allowance; or
  • you are assessed as being capable of work, and can instead apply for Jobseeker's Allowance to help you get back into work (certain conditions apply for students - see page 33).

People who receive the work-related activity component of the allowance will be expected to attend work-focused interviews to discuss what steps they can take to move towards work. However, if you are studying, you may be able to defer these interviews until the end of your course.

The rules regarding ESA and studying are complex, and what you might get depends on your individual circumstances. For further information on how these changes might affect you, contact your local Jobcentre Plus or the Skill Scotland Information Service.

Eligibility for Incapacity Benefit (existing claimants)

Students who are under 19 and on courses of 21 hours of mainstream education per week or less can continue to claim Incapacity Benefit. Any hours of tuition or classes only for disabled learners are not included in this 21 hour limit. Students under 19 taking courses of more than 21 hours per week will not be eligible.

If you are 19 or over there is no rule that says you are not able to continue to receive Incapacity Benefit while you are studying full- or part-time. However, once the Jobcentre Plus has been told you are studying or are planning to study, they may decide that you are no longer 'incapable of work'. Obviously, this is not automatically the case. Many people are able to do courses of education but are not able to work. This may be due to the flexible study and support arrangements that can be made in colleges or universities. Also, some people go into education as part of a rehabilitation process to prepare them to return to work.

Therefore, although education may trigger a review of your claim, it cannot in itself be used to decide that you are capable of work. Incapacity Benefit can only be withdrawn if you do not pass a test of incapacity (the personal capability assessment). This assesses the extent to which your ill-health or disability affects your ability to perform a range of activities. You will be automatically exempt from this test if you are blind or get Disability Living Allowance care component at the highest rate, and in some other circumstances.

For more information, see Skill's information booklet 'Studying and claiming benefits as incapable of work'.

How is Severe Disablement Allowance ( SDA) affected by studying?

Since April 2001, people have not been able to make a new claim for SDA. However, if you already getting SDA, it will usually continue. This benefit is paid if you have not been able to work for at least 28 weeks in a row because of ill health or disability.

The effect of study on SDA is the same as that of Incapacity Benefit (see above).

How is Disability Living Allowance ( DLA) affected by studying?

DLA is a benefit for disabled people who need help with personal care or who have mobility difficulties. This is a set rate of benefit and is not usually affected by savings or by other money you have coming in. DLA has two components:

  • care component paid at either the lower, middle or higher rate
  • mobility component paid at either the lower or higher rate.

As DLA is based on your day-to-day care and mobility costs, which you will continue to have when you study, your DLA should continue. As long as your care and mobility needs stay the same, there is no reason why the benefit should change.

Two exceptions to this are as follows: if you are attending a residential college where care is provided as part of the service, then the care component of your DLA can be stopped. The care component may also be stopped if you are following a catering course, where this shows that you are capable of preparing a meal.

To claim DLA, you can either call the Benefit Enquiry Line or your local Jobcentre Plus office to request a claim form, or apply online at www.dwp.gov.uk.

How is Jobseekers Allowance affected by studying?

Jobseekers Allowance is for people who are available for and actively looking for work.

Part-time students

If you are studying part-time you may be able to claim Jobseekers Allowance if the Jobcentre Plus is satisfied that you are genuinely available for work despite your studies. If your hours of studying overlap with the times you must be available for work, your studies will be ignored if you meet the following conditions:

  • you can rearrange the hours of your course immediately on taking up employment or are prepared to give up your course if offered employment, and
  • you are ready to take time off the course to attend an interview, and
  • you are ready to start work immediately.

Full-time students

If you are studying full-time you cannot usually receive JSA. However, there are four exceptions to this:

  • if you have a partner who is also a full-time student and you have a dependent child aged under 16 (or under 20 and still in full-time non-advanced education or training, i.e. below Higher Education level), you can get JSA only during the summer vacation
  • if you are 25 or over and you have been claiming JSA for at least 2 years, you may be able to take a New Deal course and still receive JSA. Your Employment Officer at the Jobcentre Plus decides if your course of study would qualify,
  • if you are on a full-time employment-related course which has been approved by a Jobcentre Plus Employment Officer, you will be able to claim JSA for 2 weeks;
  • if you are waiting to return to your course after a break agreed with the Jobcentre Plus because you were ill or you had to care for someone, you can claim JSA after the reason for your break has ended, for up to one year. You can then receive JSA until either the start of the next academic year or the date you start back on your course - whichever of these dates applies first.

As this benefit is means-tested, the amount you are eligible to receive will be affected by student support entitlement.

How is Income Support affected by studying?

Income Support provides financial help for people between 16 and 60 who are on a low income and not expected to sign on as available for work. It can help you with day-to-day living expenses.

Please note that from October 2008, new claimants will no longer be able to claim Income Support on the grounds of incapacity or as a disabled student. Instead, people who have been assessed as being incapable of work will receive support through a single incapacity benefit - the Employment and Support Allowance (page 31).

Part-time students

If you qualify for Income Support under the usual eligibility criteria, you can continue to receive this whilst you are studying part-time. For the purposes of Income Support, you are usually classed as studying 'part-time' in Higher Education if your college or university defines your course as part-time, or, in Further Education, if you are doing less than a set number of hours.

Full-time students

If you are studying full-time, you can only claim Income Support if you meet any of the following criteria (as well as the basic rules):

  • you are a disabled student, and either qualify for a disability premium (for example, because you get DLA), or have been assessed as being incapable of work for 28 weeks (existing claimants only)
  • you qualify for the Disabled Students' Allowance because you are deaf
  • you are a lone parent and your child is under 16
  • you are in a couple, your partner is also a full-time student and you have a child (you can only claim during the summer vacation, and only if you or your partner fit into one of the normal groups who are eligible for income support)
  • you are in Further Education, and are under 19 (sometimes 20) and have to live away from your parents because you are estranged from them, or because they cannot support you financially and they are chronically disabled, in prison or are not allowed to enter Britain (and some other circumstances)
  • you are in Further Education, and are under 19 (sometimes 20) and are a parent
  • you are a refugee on a course learning English (payment is limited to 9 months)
  • you are a student from abroad whose funds have been disrupted (payment is limited to 6 weeks).

If you cannot claim Income Support under the criteria above during term-time, you also cannot claim it during summer vacations or during any re-sits of modules. You can start claiming Income Support again from the moment your course ends, or if you leave the course for any reason.

As this benefit is means-tested, the amount you are eligible to receive will be affected by student support entitlement.

How is Housing Benefit affected by studying?

Housing Benefit helps you with the cost of your rent if you are on a low income. Full-time students in Further Education under 19 (sometimes 20) are usually eligible to claim. If you are a full-time student not in this group you wouldn't normally qualify for help but you may be able to get this support if you are disabled or have children.

Part-time students

Part-time students continue to be eligible for Housing Benefit.

Full-time students

You can claim Housing Benefit as a full-time student if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • you get Income Support or income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • you are a disabled student, and either you qualify for a disability premium (for example, because you get DLA), or have been assessed as being incapable of work for 28 weeks
  • you get the Disabled Students' Allowance because you are deaf
  • you are a lone parent with a dependent child under 16 (or under 20 if they are still in full-time non-advanced education or training)
  • you, or your partner, are aged 60 or over
  • you are in a couple (including same sex couples) and your partner is not a student - your partner can claim Housing Benefit for both of you, on the same conditions as for students - see below
  • you are in a couple (including same sex couples), your partner is also a student and you have a dependent child - you will then be eligible for Housing Benefit throughout your course, including vacation periods
  • you can get Housing Benefit temporarily while waiting to return to your course after an agreed break because you were ill or had to care for someone
  • you are under 19 and taking a full-time Further Education level course ( i.e. below HNC), or you are aged 19 on a Further Education course which you were accepted on or started before you reached 19.

During the summer holidays, you will not get Housing Benefit if you are away from your term-time home for a full benefit week, unless you are in hospital or your term-time home is also your permanent home.

As this benefit is means-tested, the amount you are eligible to receive will be affected by student support entitlement. To claim Housing Benefit, you should contact your local authority.

For more information about how tax affects students, check outwww.hmrc.gov.uk/studentsor call the Tax Credit Information Line on 0845 300 3900.

How is Council Tax Benefit affected by studying?

Most full-time students are exempt from paying council tax. If you're not exempt, for example if you own your home and share with other adults who are not students, you may be entitled to a second adult rebate or you may be entitled to Council Tax Benefit.

If you are liable to pay council tax, your eligibility for Council Tax Benefit is worked out in the same way as for Housing Benefit. As this benefit is means-tested, the amount you are eligible to receive will be affected by student support entitlement.

How is the Social Fund affected by studying?

If you are living on a low income and faced with costs you are unable to meet, you may be able to get a payment, grant or loan from the Social Fund. This can help with important intermittent expenses that you are unable to pay for out of your normal income, such as funeral payments, the costs of a new baby, or a crisis loan.

The Social Fund may apply to some students, but usually only if you are on specific benefits, such as Income Support. You should contact a Citizens Advice Bureau for more information.

How are Health Benefits affected by studying?

All young people under 18 are entitled to free NHS dental treatment. If you are studying full-time and are under 19 you may qualify for a range of free medical benefits, including free NHS prescriptions, dental treatment and glasses. If you are aged 19 or over, you may qualify if you are on a low income or a qualifying benefit (Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Child Tax Credit if you have a low enough income, or Working Tax Credit with a disability or severe disability element if you have a low enough income). For further information call 0845 850 1166.

How is Carer's Allowance affected by studying?

Carer's Allowance is for people who spend at least 35 hours a week looking after a disabled adult or child. The amount you get is not income-assessed and does not depend on your student loan, grants or other income, although you cannot get this allowance if you work and earn more than a certain amount.

Part-time students

Part-time students can claim Carer's Allowance if they meet the general eligibility criteria.

Full-time students

Full-time students (21 hours or more of guided study per week) cannot claim Carers Allowance during term time or the vacation periods.

How are Tax Credits affected by studying?

Full-time and part-time students with dependent children are entitled to claim Child Tax Credit from HM Revenue and Customs ( HMRC). Extra amounts are available for those who are caring for disabled children.

Disabled students or students with children who work 16 hours or more a week could also be eligible for Working Tax Credit (for full-time and part-time students), which is designed to make work pay for those on lower incomes. Students over 25 working at least 30 hours a week on a low income may also be entitled to Working Tax Credit.

How much help you get depends on your circumstances, including you and your partner's income. To find out more, visit www.hmrc.gov.ukor call the Tax Credit Information Line on 0845 300 3900. For more information about how tax affects students, check out www.hmrc.gov.uk/students.

Claiming benefits during periods of ill health

If you need to take time out from your studies because of ill health, you may be able to claim certain benefits which were not available to you while you were studying. Contact your local Jobcentre Plus for more details.