If you are:
- Graduating this summer, or
- Otherwise finishing your course; and
- Don’t have any full or part-time work arranged; and
- Are not going to be working or living abroad, or
- Don’t have a summer placement lined up, or
- Don’t have volunteer work arranged
Then you might be considering claiming social security (also known as benefits) to tide you over until you find employment or start a further course of study. Please note this is only a quick guide — if you need more information please contact the Advice Centre.
What can I claim?
For most students at the end of their course it is likely that you will have to claim Universal Credit. Universal Credit has now replaced all new claims for income-based benefits in the UK. Examples of these (also known as “legacy benefits”) are Income Support, Jobseekers’ Allowance, Employment & Support Allowance, Child and Working Tax Credits, and also Housing Benefit.
While previously if you were looking for work you would claim Jobseekers’ Allowance, or alternately if you were unable to work for health reasons you would claim Employment & Support Allowance, you now would therefore claim Universal Credit instead.
‘New Style’ Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and ‘New Style’ Contribution-based Employment & Support Allowance claims can still be made, however to claim these would require an applicant to have paid enough National Insurance contributions in the last 2 to 3 years. Full-time students will not typically have enough NI contributions to apply for these.
As Universal Credit has also replaced Income Support, Child and Working Tax Credits, and Housing Benefit, no new claims can be made for any of these (aside from a small exemption in relation to claimants in temporary accommodation). However, if you are already receiving any of those legacy benefits we would recommend you get a benefit check to ensure you will not be worse off by claiming Universal Credit.
A final important point to note is that Universal Credit does not include an element for Council Tax Reduction, therefore you will have to apply separately to your local council authority for help with council tax costs.
When can I claim?
Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears (although in Scotland, you can request that it is paid twice a month). You can put in your claim from the day after the last day of your course. As the current term ends on 26 May 2023, you can therefore claim from 27 May 2023.
From the date you apply for Universal Credit there will be a five week wait before your first payment, however you will be allowed to apply for an “advance payment” to cover this period. This advance will be repaid via a deduction from your ongoing award.
Council Tax Reduction, or any other eligible benefit that students are excluded from, such as Carers Allowance, can be applied for from the day after the last day of the course. For example, as the end of Semester Two for most undergraduate courses is Friday 26 May, a claim for benefits can be made from Saturday 27 May onwards.
Covid-19: Once a Universal Credit claim has been made, the DWP will contact you to either make a telephone or in person appointment. You do not need to attend a local jobcentre unless you are asked to. Further details on this can be found here.
Please note, if you are a student on the summer break of an ongoing course, Universal Credit has the potential to leave student significantly worse off when returning after the summer. We therefore recommend you read over our page on Benefits During Summer.
How much would I get?
Universal Credit is paid monthly. The basic rate for someone aged 18 to 24 years and single, is £292.11 per month and £368.74 per month for someone 25 or older. (Please note these rates are subject to change). As Universal Credit is income-based, if you have any other money coming in (or savings above £6000), this will affect what you receive. If you have a partner, then the basic rate payable is higher, but your partner’s income would also be taken into account in the calculation.
An additional amount may be payable if you live in rented accommodation, if you have children, a partner, or any health conditions. As mentioned above the reason for this is Universal Credit replaces a lot of other benefits such as Tax Credits, Housing Benefit, and Employment & Support Allowance. Importantly, as was the case with Housing Benefit, all of your rent may not necessarily be covered.
Students currently receiving Universal Credit
A small number of students (such as those with children or students with disabilities) are entitled to Universal Credit while studying.
If you are currently receiving Universal Credit during term time, then it is important to log your course end date in your Universal Credit journal in the final month of your course. This is because student income (such as loans) is excluded from the award calculation covering the final assessment period of your course.
While the DWP may be aware of the end of date of your course, it is good practice to notify them of this. The aim here is to ensure you recieve the full award you are entitled to following the completion of your degree.
Where can I find out more?
The SRC Advice Centre can assist with a benefit check or you can also contact your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau
For more information about Universal Credit, and how to make a claim using the online system, please see the UK Government’s Universal Credit website and also at Understanding Universal Credit.
Also, for more information, please see the Child Poverty Action Group factsheet at: http://www.cpag.org.uk/universal-credit-factsheet
Brexit and students from the EU and EEA
If you are an EU/EEA national who came to live in the UK before the transitional period ended on 31/12/20 and wish to claim benefits there was a requirement for you to apply for settled (or pre-settled status) before 30 June 2021.
Most benefits will also require you to have a ‘right to reside’. Settled status on its own does not provide an automatic ‘right to reside’ for claiming benefits. If you are unsure about what this means once you have finished your course, then please see the CPAG Rights to benefits and tax credits for European nationals factsheet.
If you have a student visa, or are in any other category in which you have the condition, ‘no recourse to public funds’ stamped in your passport or on your Biometric Residence Permit then it is unlikely you will be able to claim most benefits – always get advice before trying to make a claim.
This information is meant to serve only as a quick guide, so if you have any questions or are unsure of your eligibility for benefits or how to claim them, please contact the SRC Advice Centre for more information.