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Full time students and benefits - Can full time students claim disability benefits?

Find out more about full time students and benefits.

Can full time students claim disability benefits?

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. or Armed Forces 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.

Please note, however, that if you are still getting Incapacity Benefit you will be reassessed at some point and may then be transferred to Employment and Support Allowance or have to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance where the rules for full time students are different. See our information guide on incapacity benefits reassessments for more details.

If you are still getting Disability Living Allowance you will be reassessed for Personal Independence Payment, the timetable can be found on our Benefit Changes guide - October 2015.

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.

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