How to claim benefits as a student

If you are eligible to claim welfare benefits you should always put in a new claim to Jobcentre Plus, your Housing Benefit Office or the Social Security Agency (if you live in Northern Ireland), at the beginning of September and the end of June to make sure that you get everything to which you are entitled.  To find out how to apply for a rate rebate/rate relief in Northern Ireland check the Land and Property Services website or the Northern Ireland Housing Executive site.

You must always tell the government about any change in your circumstances if you are receiving benefits. This is particularly important when you first become a student if you have been receiving means-tested welfare benefits as you could end up being overpaid benefit.

Remember, you can’t substitute means-tested benefits for your student support – student loans, maintenance grants and so on will be taken into account as income for welfare benefits whether you take them or not.

How is student income calculated for means-tested benefits?

If you’re a student who can claim means-tested welfare benefits some, but not all, of your student income, with certain disregards, is taken into account for either 42/43 weeks per year from the beginning of September until the end of June. This means that you may find that your student income is too high for you to receive any benefits except for about ten weeks in the summer.* This is why it’s important to claim in June even if you were turned down in September. Please note income from working is taking into account.

If you have a non-student partner who can claim welfare benefits on behalf of you both your student income will be taken into account in the same way.

*If you are receiving an NHS Bursary your bursary income is treated in a slightly different way. If you have queries about this contact our Online Money Adviser.

What if my circumstances change while I am studying?

If, while you’re studying, you have to take time out from your studies because you are ill, become pregnant or have to care for someone else, for example, contact our Online Money Adviser as soon as possible. The staff in the organisations listed there should be able to tell you what financial help you may be entitled to through the student funding and welfare benefits system, and when to claim so that you do not miss out on any benefits. You may also want to contact your institution or student union for advice.

You should do this before you actually withdraw from the university or suspend your studies if at all possible.

If you decide to take a year out you’ll be treated as if you were still a full-time student for welfare benefits (unless you have any other circumstances that make you eligible) as you won’t have abandoned or been dismissed from your course. You’ll have to support yourself through working if your family can’t help you.

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