Although most full-time students are not entitled to social security benefits, certain full-time students (including young people in Further Education without support from their parents, parents and disabled students) may be eligible. If you want to take a full-time course you should always ask at your local Jobcentre Plus office or local Citizens Advice Bureau about how this will affect your benefits.
If you are currently eligible for social security benefits, you are usually still entitled to them when you become a part-time student or choose to study a course by distance learning. It is important to discuss this with the student adviser at your college or university as well as your local Jobcentre Plus office.
Any extra help you receive for travel and study costs should not affect your benefits.
Benefits for living costs
Universal credit (UC) has been introduced throughout Scotland, replacing means-tested benefits for living costs, rent and the cost of children. If you need to make a new claim for benefit you must usually claim universal credit rather than 'legacy't benefits (tax credits, income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA), income-related employment and support allowance (ESA) and housing benefit). There is an exception for some people who get a 'severe disability premium' in their income support, income-based JSA, income-related ESA or housing benefit - they cannot claim UC but can still claim legacy benefits. If you think this applies, seek advice.
If you get UC and start a full-time course you may be able to stay on or claim UC if you are a parent (including foster parent), disabled, have a partner who is not a student, or are a young person under 21 in Further Education with no support from your parents in certain circumstances.
You cannot usually make a new claim for income support, income-related ESA, income-based JSA, tax credits or housing. However, if you already get these benefits you may be able to remain on them if you start studying full-time. For example, full-time students can remain on tax credits. Lone parent students with a child under five can remain on income-support and HB. Disabled students who get personal independence payment (PIP) or disability living allowance (DLA0 can remain on income-related ESA.
Seek advice if you are told you must claim UC, as sometimes students are worse off on UC than if they had remained on tax credits or other legacy benefits.
In Higher Education, UC will either not be paid or paid at a reduced rate during the academic year because of the student loan or grants, but you should receive UC in full over the summer between academic years of the course.
Housing Benefit (HB) helps you with the cost of your rent if you are on a low income. You cannot make a new claim for HB unless:
- you get a 'severe disability premium' in your ESA, income support or income-based JSA; or
- you live in 'specified accommodation' or 'temporary accommodation'. This includes certain types of supported, refuge, hostel and homeless accommodation (you may still need to claim UC as well for your living costs).
If you are eligible to claim HB, or are already getting HB, and you start a course, you can get HB if:
- you are a full-time student in Further Education and are under 21 years old (or aged 21 if you turned 21 on your course); or
- you are a full-time student in Further Education aged 22 or over, or a full-time student in Higher Education, and you are disabled or have children.
Your local council will be able to give you more advice.
Most full-time students do not have to pay council tax. We call this being 'exempt'. 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 Council Tax Reduction. Apply to your local council for help with council tax.
Benefits for Carers
Full-time students cannot get carer's allowance or claim UC as a carer.
From later in 2019 young carers age 16-18 may be eligible for a young carer grant from Scottish government. See www.cpag.org.uk/scottish-benefits/carers-assistance for more information.
If you're studying full-time and are under 19 you may qualify for a range of free health benefits, including dental treatment and glasses (if you need them). Otherwise, you may qualify for free health benefits if you're on a low income or another qualifying benefit. For more information call 0300 330 1343 or visit : https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/nhs-help-health-costs
For more information contact your local Jobcentre Plus office, the student adviser at your college or university or your local citizens advice bureau or visit www.onlinepublications.cpag.org.uk for Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland's 'Benefits for Students in Scotland Handbook'.