If you are a continuing student and eligible to claim benefits over the summer, make sure you get a benefit check before making any new claim.
The information on this page primarily refers to students currently receiving "legacy benefits" and the risks involved in claiming Universal Credit. For students currently not receiving any benefits please see our section on Universal Credit's student eligibility criteria here.
Universal Credit is replacing other benefits
Slowly over a number of years Universal Credit has been rolled out in all regions in the UK. This means that if you are putting a new claim in for any income-based benefit you will most likely have to claim Universal Credit instead of what have been termed “legacy benefits”. Examples of legacy benefits are Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, Employment & Support Allowance, Child and Working Tax Credits, and also Housing Benefit, all of which are being replaced by Universal Credit.
For claimants already receiving these legacy benefits this will continue. However, if you have a change of circumstances this could trigger a Universal Credit transfer.
Please note, the UK Government has recently announced here that they aim to transfer all legancy benefit claimants to Universal Credit by the end of 2024.
In previous years, students with children or health conditions (specifically those receiving Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Child Tax Credits) may have been able to apply for housing benefit over the summer break, because they were not receiving their student loan income. However, as Universal Credit has now been fully rolled out from early 2019, if you wished to claim housing benefit over the 2022 summer break, this will most likely trigger a change of circumstances and you will be required to claim Universal Credit. By claiming Universal Credit this will stop all legacy benefits and you are unlikely to be able to reopen them.
The effect of claiming Universal Credit
While it is possible that claiming Universal Credit over the summer months will increase your income in the short-term (as it will include a housing cost element), in the longer term, when a student returns to their course after the summer break, research from the Child Poverty Action Group has shown students tend to be significantly worse off than those who remain on legacy benefits.
The reason for this is that the rules on how student finance affects Universal Credit is radically different from how it affected legacy benefits. Previously, student loans and certain grants had less of an effect on income-based benefits.
Aside from a set disregard of £110 a week, a significant amount of student finance (including student loans, the lone parent grant, dependants grant and young students’ bursary) will lower the Universal Credit award pound for pound. It is therefore possible that while under the legacy benefit system a single parent student would be entitled to Child Tax Credits during their study, if the same claim was submitted under Universal Credit they would not be entitled to any income-based benefit. You should note that circumstances and entitlements vary, so we can’t say that all cases would be worse off or better off – we advise getting a benefit check specific to your own individual circumstances.
As noted above, the UK Government plans to transfer all claimants from legacy benefits to Universal Credit via a managed migration by the end of 2024, however at this current time unless a change of circumstances occurs or they are in the process of being migrated, a claimant can continue to receive legacy benefits.
For these reasons we would again strongly recommend any continuing student not currently receiving Universal Credit but considering claiming housing benefit or any other income-based benefit over this summer break to make sure you get a benefit check before you make any new claim.
Where to get a benefit check:
Students currently receiving Universal Credit
If you are currently receiving Universal Credit during term time, then it is important to log the end of term in your Universal Credit journal in the month prior to the 'long summer vacation period' beginning. This is because student income (such as loans) is excluded from the award calculation covering the final assessment period (month) of each academic year.
While the DWP should be aware of the end of term date, it is good practice to notify them of this. The aim here is to ensure you recieve the full award you are entitled to over the summer vacation period.
Which students can claim Universal Credit over the summer?
Unfortunately most full-time students are not eligible to claim Universal Credit over the the summer vacation period or during their studies.
There are a few exceptions to this under the following circumstances:
- you live with your partner and they’re eligible for Universal Credit
- you’ve reached the qualifying age for Pension Credit and live with a partner who is under that age
- you’re disabled, were assessed as having "limited capability for work" before starting your course and are getting:
- Personal Independence Payment
- Disability Living Allowance
- Child Disability Payment in Scotland
- Attendance Allowance
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
- you’re aged 21 or under, in full-time non-advanced education and do not have parental support (please note, a degree level course would not count as "non-advanced education")
Part-time students are also potentially able to claim if their studies do not prevent them from undertaking their work-related requirements.
Universal Credit also requires applicants to have a "right to reside". EU students therefore should always seek advice prior to any claim. Claims cannot not be made if your VISA states "no recourse to public funds".
Further eligibility criteria details can be found on the Gov.uk page Universal Credit and Students
As noted above though, if you are currently receiving a "legacy benefit", we would always advise students to speak to us before considering a new claim.
Further information on the impact of Universal Credit
BBC News Article (December 2018)
Child Poverty Action Group Briefing (pdf, February 2019)