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Benefits and students

Key information

The rules regarding benefits entitlement when you are a full-time or part-time student are complicated.

  • Many benefits have special rules which apply to students
  • Some benefits have rules which exclude most full-time students
  • Student income from grants, loans or bursaries may be taken into account for means-tested benefits.

This section provides more information.

Applies to: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Advice: We recommend that you seek advice from an expert benefits adviser about your particular circumstances. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a local one.

 

Index

You can read through this information sheet, or go directly to the sections you want to read by clicking on these links:

What type of students does this information sheet cover?

This information sheet covers full-time and part-time students in higher education and further education.

It does not cover school students in relevant education or apprentices

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Full-Time Students and Benefits

Overview

For Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit (HB England, Scotland, Wales and HB Northern Ireland) and Council Tax Support, whether you are a full-time student depends on your age and the level of the course.

You are a full-time student if:

  • You are not a "qualifying young person" for Child Benefit purposes
  • You are not getting a training allowance
  • You are not in 'relevant education'.
  • and

  • You are aged under 19 and on a full-time course of advanced education
  • or

  • You are aged 19 or over and on a full-time course of study at any level, unless you are aged under 20 and can still be treated as in relevant education.

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 summer vacations and when taking time out from studying, unless certain circumstances apply (see Time out from study.

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Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

Even if you are unemployed and looking for work, you will not be entitled to Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) if you are a full-time student. The exception to this is if you are a lone parent or a member of a couple with a child where both of you are full-time students and you claim during your summer holidays

You may be able to get JSA for a limited period after taking time out from study.

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

Income Support

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
  • Are a lone foster parent of a child under 16
  • Are receiving long-term Incapacity Benefit 
  • 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 and you claim during your summer vacation.

NB: 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.

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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 a full-time student if you have previously worked and paid national insurance contributions. However, contributory ESA has stopped for young people aged between 16 and 25 who have not made national insurance contributions.

Income-related ESA

You will only be able to claim income-related ESA if you are also getting Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

f you are a full time student who is entitled to DLA, for ESA you count as having limited capability for work without having to have a Work Capability Assessment.

NB: 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.

ESA in Youth

It is no longer possible to claim contributory ESA without paying national insurance contributions if you are aged between 16 and 20 (or 25 if you are in education or training for at least three months before turning 20). If you were claiming contributory ESA before 30 April 2012, the time limit for which you can claim will be reduced to 365 days. You will still be able to claim income-related ESA if you are entitled to do so.

Work Capability Assessment

Remember that you are only entitled to any of the types of ESA described above if you satisfy the Work Capability Assessment.

NB: If activities you do as part of your course suggest 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.

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Pension Credit

If you are a full-time student who is over Pension Credit age and you have a low income, you may be able to get Pension Credit.

NB: Any student support income (grants or loans) you receive is ignored.

Anyone who gets Pension Credit (Guarantee credit) automatically qualifies for Housing Benefit (HB England, Scotland, Wales and HB Northern Ireland) and/or Council Tax Support (England, Scotland and Wales only).

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Housing Benefit (England, Scotland and Wales, Northern Ireland) and Council Tax Support (England, Scotland and Wales)

If you are a full-time student, you can get Housing Benefit (HB England, Scotland, Wales and HB Northern Ireland) and/or Council Tax Support (England, Scotland and Wales) if you meet one of the following conditions:

  • you receive Income Support (IS) or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or income-related Employment and Support Allowance or are over Pension Credit age
  • you are responsible for a child and you are a lone parent or a member of a couple and you are both full-time students (unlike IS and JSA this applies throughout the year)
  • 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 (see Time out from study).

NB: If you receive student support, in the form of a grant or loan, this will usually reduce the amount of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit you can get, unless you also get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance or you are over Pension Credit age.

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Tax Credits

You can get Tax Credits even if you are a full-time student, however, in some cases you will need to be aged 25 or over. 

If you or your partner are working and have a fairly low income, you may get Working Tax Credit. How many hours you need to work will depend on your circumstances.

If you are responsible for children as a lone parent or as a member of a couple, you may get Child Tax Credit.

See the Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit information pages for full details about who can claim.

NB: Most student support income is ignored but some additional payments may count as income.

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Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance

You can get Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance even if you are a full-time student; or you may be able to get Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which will gradually replace DLA for working age people.

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

If you need help with personal care and are aged 65 or over, you can get Attendance Allowance.

NB: Disability Living 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.

NB: If activities you do as part of your course suggest that your health has improved, your Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance may stop. For example, if you are getting Disability Living Allowance because you said you have problems with cooking a main meal and you are studying to be a chef, this could cause your Disability Living Allowance award to be reviewed.

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Incapacity Benefit

Incapacity Benefit is a benefit that people used to be able to claim if they cannot work because they are sick or disabled.

You cannot make a new claim for Incapacity Benefit but if you are already claiming it, you can continue to get it when you become a full-time student, as long as you are unfit to work.  Please note, however, that if you are getting Incapacity Benefit, you will be reassessed between now and April 2014 and may then be transferred to Employment and Support Allowance or have to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance. See our information sheet on Incapacity benefits reassessments for more details.

NB: If activities you do as part of your course suggest that your health has improved, you could lose your Incapacity 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.

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Carer’s Allowance

You cannot get Carer’s Allowance if you are in full-time education, even during vacations.

For Carer’s Allowance, this usually means a course at any level that the school, college or university says is full time.

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Other Benefits

If you meet the eligibility rules, you may also be able to get Child Benefit, Social Fund payments, Help with health costs and Help with housing costs. You may also be able to get national insurance credits (link opens in a new window), even for tax years when you are on a full-time course, which can help you to get benefits in the future.

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Part-time students and benefits

Overview

For Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit (HB England, Scotland, Wales and HB Northern Ireland) and Council Tax Support, whether you are a part-time student depends on your age and the level of the course. 

You are a part-time student if you are studying but you:

NB: If you started a full-time course and reduced your hours of attendance, you might still be treated as a full-time student rather than a part-time one.

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

You can still be entitled to most benefits while you are doing a part-time course.

The benefits which may be affected by being a part-time student are:

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Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

If you are unemployed and trying to find work, you may be entitled to Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). Because you usually have to be available for full-time work, you need to show that you are still available for work around your study hours.

You may be able to alter your agreed pattern of availability, but remember that, unless otherwise agreed, you will be expected to be willing to give up the course if suitable full-time work becomes available.

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

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Income Support

Part-time students can get Income Support as long as they are in one of the groups of people who can claim this benefit and fit the other rules. For example, if you:

  • Are a lone parent with a child under age five
  • Are a lone foster parent of a child under 16
  • Are receiving Incapacity Benefit

NB: 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.

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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 ESA while a part-time student if you have previously worked and paid national insurance contributions.

Income-related ESA

You may be able to qualify for income-related ESA as a part-time student if you are studying 16 hours or less per week and are 20 years or over.

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

ESA in Youth

It is no longer possible to claim contributory ESA without paying national insurance contributions if you are aged between 16 and 20 (or 25 if you are in education or training for at least three months before turning 20). If you were claiming contributory ESA before 30 April 2012,, the time limit for which you can claim will be reduced to 365 days. You will still be able to claim income-related ESA if you are entitled to do so.

Work Capability Assessment

Remember that you are only entitled to any of the types of ESA described above if you satisfy the Work Capability Assessment. If activities you do as part of your course suggest 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.

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Pension Credit

If you are a part-time student who is over Pension Credit age and you have a low income, you may be able to get Pension Credit.
NB: Any student support income (grants or loans) you receive is ignored.

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Housing Benefit (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and Council Tax Support (England, Scotland and Wales)

If you are a part-time student, you may be able to get Housing Benefit (HB England, Scotland, Wales and HB Northern Ireland) and/or Council Tax Support (England, Scotland and Wales).

NB: If you receive student support, in the form of a grant or loan, this will usually reduce the amount of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit you can get, unless you also get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance or you are over Pension Credit age.

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Tax Credits

You can get Tax Credits even if you are a full-time student, however, in some cases you will need to be aged 25 or over. 

If you or your partner are working and have a fairly low income, you may get Working Tax Credit. How many hours you need to work will depend on your circumstances.

If you are responsible for children as a lone parent or as a member of a couple, you may get Child Tax Credit.

See the Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit information pages for full details about who can claim.

NB: Most student support income is ignored but some additional payments may count as income.

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Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance

You can get Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance even if you are a part-time student; or, you may also be able to get Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which will gradually replace DLA for working age people.

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

If you need help with personal care and are aged 65 or over, you can get Attendance Allowance.

NB: Disability Living 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.

NB: If activities you do as part of your course suggest that your health has improved, your Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance may stop.  For example, if you are getting Disability Living Allowance  because you said you have problems with cooking a main meal and you are studying to be a chef, this could cause your Disability Living Allowance award to be reviewed.

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Incapacity Benefit

Incapacity Benefit is a benefit that people used to be able to claim if they cannot work because they are sick or disabled.

You cannot make a new claim for Incapacity Benefit but if you are already claiming it, you can continue to get it when you become a part-time student, as long as you are unfit to work.  Please note, however, that if you are getting Incapacity Benefit, you will be reassessed between now and April 2014 and may then be transferred to Employment and Support Allowance or have to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance. See our information sheet on Incapacity benefits reassessments for more details.

NB: If activities you do as part of your course suggest that your health has improved, you could lose your Incapacity 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.

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Carer’s Allowance

If you are a part-time student and your course involves you studying for less than 21 hours per week, you may be able to claim Carer's Allowance if you care for someone for at least 35 hours a week and they are in receipt of a qualifying benefit.

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Other Benefits

If you meet the eligibility rules, you may also be able to get Child Benefit, Social Fund payments, Help with health costs and Help with housing costs

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Benefits and Students

Students with partners

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 income may be taken into account.

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

See Student support

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Time out from study

If you are a part-time student and take time out from study, you may still be treated as a part-time student and have some of your student income taken into account if you claim means-tested benefits.

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.

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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 (HB England, Scotland, Wales and HB Northern Ireland) or Council Tax Support (England, Scotland and Wales only) for up to a year once your illness or caring responsibilities have come to an end. This is while you are waiting to rejoin the course (for example, until the start of the next academic term).

NB: You may be treated as having student support income, such as student loans or grants during this period. See student support

Part-time students will continue to get any disability benefits they are already claiming.

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Pregnancy

If you are a full-time student and you take time out from your studies because you are pregnant, you would 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

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 would still be treated as a full-time student and would not be able to claim means tested benefits, unless you are a student who can get these benefits while studying. 

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Student support and the effect on benefits

You may be able to get help with the costs of your course and your living expenses by getting student grants (including bursaries) and student loans. See Student grants and loans.

Depending on your circumstances, you may also be able to claim additional grant and loan income, for example if you have children or have a disability. See the information on Student Finance (link opens in a new window) on the Gov.UK website for more details.

The rules about how student income, such as grants (including bursaries) and loans, affects benefits entitlement are quite complicated. If this concerns you, we suggest you seek further information from a benefits adviser. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a local one.

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Benefits where student support is ignored

Student loans or grants are not taken into account as income for:

Student income is not taken into account for Housing Benefit (HB England, Scotland Wales and HB Northern Ireland or Council Tax Support (available England, Scotland and Wales only) if you (or your partner) receive:

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Benefits where student support is taken into account

Student loans or grants are taken into account as income for means-tested benefits, such as:

However, some grant or loan income is ignored, including

  • Fixed amounts for travel costs and books/equipment
  • Any allowance for tuition fees
  • A disabled student's allowance
  • An allowance to cover the cost of residential study
  • Any amount for childcare costs
  • A parent's learning allowance
  • A higher education grant
  • A special support grant
  • A higher education bursary for care leavers.

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Student Support and Tax Credits

Student loan income is ignored when working out the amount of Tax Credits you will get.

Some student grant income is ignored for Tax Credits, including:

  • any amount for tuition fees
  • a postgraduate maintenance grant
  • certain bursaries (such as a health bursary or social work bursary)
  • childcare grants
  • a parents’ learning allowance.

The period over which student grant and loan income is taken into account:

  • Most student income is averaged out over only the weeks of the year when you are studying (usually 42/43 weeks), but there are exceptions:
    • Some student income is averaged over the whole year (52 weeks), such as some National Health Service (NHS) bursaries and postgraduate awards
    • If you are on a “sandwich course” your grant income is normally not taken into account for the periods when you are on the placement or work experience part of the course
    • If you stop being a full-time student before the end of your course, your grant or loan income may still be treated as income, until the date your course should have ended or until the date you repay your grant.
  • If you don’t apply for student income, which you could claim, you can be treated as if you have that money.  This is called “notional income.”

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Further information

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Frequently asked questions

1. Can I get help with my rent while I am studying away from home?

If you fit one of the categories of full-time students who can claim Housing Benefit and you have to live away from home to attend your course, you can get Housing Benefit (HB England, Scotland, Wales and HB Northern Ireland)/ Council Tax Support (England, Scotland, Wales only) for your student accommodation during term times or for the whole year if you do not have to pay rent on your normal home. If you have a partner, you may also be able to claim Housing Benefit on your normal rented home, if your partner lives there and you are away from that home because you are studying. Part of your student grant and loan income may be taken into account when calculating how much Housing Benefit you can get.

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2. I haven’t claimed my student loan but the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is still counting it as income for my Income Support claim? Is this right

Yes, there is a special rule that means you will be treated as having income from the student loan, which you would have received if you had applied for it. £10 per week and set amounts for travel, books and equipment will be disregarded from the loan amount.

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3. What help is available to students who are single parents?

If you are a lone parent whose youngest child is under five years old, you may be eligible for Income Support. You may also be able to claim Housing Benefit (HB England, Scotland, Wales and HB Northern Ireland)/ Council Tax Support (England, Scotland, Wales only), Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit. Your student income and any capital you have may be taken into account - see Student support.

You may also be eligible for extra student income. See Student grants and loans.

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4. Which benefits are available to a couple if one person is in full-time employment and the other is a full-time student?

The non-student may be eligible for Working Tax Credit and possibly for Housing Benefit (HB England, Scotland, Wales and HB Northern Ireland)/ Council Tax Support (England, Scotland, Wales only). They would need to claim as a couple and some of the student loan and grant income would be taken into account. 

Most full-time students are not eligible for means-tested benefits but there are some exceptions. 

Part-time students can claim most benefits but part of their student income and any capital they have may be taken into account – see Student support.

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5. Are there any benefits or extra financial help available for students with disabilities?

You may be eligible for Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment (if aged under 65) or Attendance Allowance (if you are aged over 65) and/or Employment and Support Allowance (if you are under pension age and have limited capability for work). See Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance for students and Employment and Support Allowance for students. You may also be eligible for additional loan or grant income – see the Student Finance section on the Gov.uk website (link opens in a new window)

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6. I’ve just retired from work and am starting a degree course. What benefits are available to me as a mature student?

If you are over Pension Credit age, you may be entitled to Pension Credit. If you are liable for rent and Council Tax, you may be eligible for HB Northern Ireland)/ Council Tax Support (England, Scotland, Wales only). If you are under Pension Credit age, you may be eligible for other benefits such as Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance. However, most full-time students are not entitled to benefits and for means tested benefits (except Pension Credit), some of your student grant or loan income may be taken into account. See Student support.

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7. Does being a UK student studying abroad make a difference to which benefits you can claim?

Yes, the rules for claiming benefits when you are abroad are complex and differ depending on which benefits you claim and the country you will be living in. An experienced adviser will be able to help you. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a local one.

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Last updated: 27 November 2013

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