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Part time students and benefits

Find out more about the definition of a part-time student for benefit purposes and whether you can claim any benefits or tax credits

1. Who is a part-time student for benefit purposes?

For Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit 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:
•    Are not in relevant education and
•    Are not attending a full-time course.

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 holidays and when taking time out from studying, unless certain circumstances apply (see Time out from study within this guide).

For Universal Credit, you will be treated as a part time student if you are studying but

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:

Students with Partners

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 legacy benefits for both of you. If you claim Universal Credit you will both have to agree to a claimant commitment, and if your course means you cannot do all your work related requirements your partner might get a reduced amount of Universal Credit. Some of your student support may be taken into account.

2. Can part-time students claim Universal Credit?

If you are a part-time student, you can only claim Universal Credit if your course does not stop you from doing your work related activities.

What your work related activities are will depend on your circumstances.

If you are expected to look for work and be available for work, you will have to show that your course won’t stop you from doing this, and you might have to agree to give up your course if you get a job offer.

You might be able to argue that your course will help you to get a job or a better paid job, and so that it should mean you need to spend less hours looking for work. You will need to agree this with your work coach. 
 

3. Can part time students claim JSA or Income Support?

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

If you are unemployed and trying to find work and are already getting Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) you might be able to carry on getting it if you start studying part time. 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.

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.

It is no longer possible to make new claims for income-related JSA.

Income Support

If you are already getting Income Support you might be able to carry on getting it when you start studying part time, as long as you 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 age 16
•    Are receiving Carer's Allowance

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.

It is no longer possible to make new claims for Income Support.

4. Can part time students get help with housing costs?

Housing Benefit

If you are already getting Housing Benefit you might be able to carry on getting it if you start studying part time.

If you are under Pension Credit age and 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.

It is no longer possible to make new claims for Housing Benefit.

If you don't already have a claim for housing benefit and you want help with your rent you will need to claim Universal Credit.

 

5. Can part time students claim disability benefits?

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Contributory ESA

If you are a part time student who is not able to work due to illness or disability, you may be entitled to contributory/ New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you have previously worked and paid national insurance contributions.

Income-related ESA

If you are already receiving income-related Employment and Support Allowance you might be able to carry on getting it as a part-time student if you are studying 16 hours or less per week.

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.

It is no longer possible to make new claims for income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

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 part-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.

Disability Living Allowance

You cannot make a new claim for Disability Living Allowance but if you are already claiming it, you can continue to get it when you become a part-time student, as long as you still meet the criteria.

If you are still getting Disability Living Allowance you will be reassessed at some point for Personal Independence Payment.

See When will I move from DLA to PIP

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.

6. Part time students and other benefits

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.

Child Benefit

If you are responsible for a child, as a part time student you can still claim Child Benefit.

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.

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

If you get Pension Credit (Guarantee credit) you will automatically receive your maximum entitlement to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support.

Tax Credits

If you are already getting tax credits you may be able to continue getting them as a part time student. It is no longer possible to make new claims for tax credits.

See the Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit information pages for full details about tax credits.

 

7. Benefits during 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 support taken into account if you claim means-tested benefits.

8. Further Information

Students and benefits is a complex area. Advice should always be sought from an experienced specialist adviser or student service.

You can seek advice in your local area by using our Find an Adviser tool and you can also obtain assistance from the organisations listed below.

Student Advice Services/ Welfare Office at Colleges/Universities

Most universities and colleges will have a student advice/welfare service.  The university offices normally provide advice on a range of issues including housing, benefits and student financial support.  Students may also be able to access 'Hardship Payments' through student support offices. Services offered by colleges maybe more limited.

Disabled Students Helpline

Disability Rights UK run a free specialist helpline to advise and support disabled people aged over 16 in England, who are studying or wish to study full-time or part-time. 

Tel: 0800 328 5050 (Tues 11.30 – 13.30 and Thurs, 13.30 – 15.30) Email:students@disabilityrightsuk.org .

General information is also provided to disabled students in Scotland and Wales.

Scotland Tel: 0131 228 9441 or 0800 999 2568

GOV.UK website - Student Finance

Detailed information on financial support for students can be accessed from the GOV.UK website.

National Union of Students (NUS)

Comprehensive range of student information provided including an advice section on website. Visit the National Union of Students website for more details. 

National Apprenticeship Helpline

The helpline provides  guidance on accessing apprenticeships and related issues. You can obtain further information from the GOV.UK site.

Tel: 0800 015 0400 or 0247 682 6482  

Email: nationalhelpdesk@apprenticeships.gov.uk