Welfare benefits are payments made by the government for living costs. They are a ‘safety net’ for people who can’t meet their own financial needs, or because they have particular needs such as a disability.
Welfare benefits are either ‘means-tested’ or ‘non means-tested’ and, whereas student funding runs with the academic year, welfare benefits are generally altered with the tax year – 6 April to 5 April.
Welfare benefits are administered by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in England, Wales and Scotland, through Jobcentre Plus Offices, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), and the Disability and Carers Service, and through the Social Security Agency in Northern Ireland.
Most full time students can’t claim welfare benefits, but there are important exceptions. See the welfare benefits article for more information.
Housing Benefit and Council Tax
Housing Benefit and Council Tax are administered by your local council in England, Wales and Scotland. Check the Benefits and Pensions page on the ni.gov website for details of how to apply for benefits in Northern Ireland.
Every council in England has its own Council Tax Support or Council Tax Reduction scheme which replaces the old Council Tax Benefit. This does not change exemptions, for example full-time students. Scotland and Wales have different scheme that are national (rather than by Council).
Tax credits and Child Benefit
Tax credits and Child Benefit are administered by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). As with welfare benefits, tax credits and Child Benefit are altered with the tax year – 6 April to 5 April.
You’re not excluded from claiming Child Benefit or tax credits simply because you’re a full-time student.
Tax credit awards are assessed on your income in the previous tax year. This can lead to under or overpayments. So tell HMRC immediately if your income changes, or of any other relevant changes in your circumstances. Make a note of when you called and who you spoke to, and keep copies of all correspondence.
Tax credit applications need to be renewed for each tax year. Delays can lead to payments being stopped.
Welfare benefits and tax credits are very complicated. Be aware that the government offices administering them may sometimes make mistakes in their calculations, or in the advice they give to students.
If you are an EEA or International Student, there is detailed information on the UKCISA website about your position with regard to welfare benefits and tax credits.
- Financial support for medical students
- How to apply for government financial support
- Student loans
- Deadlines for student financial support
- NHS Bursaries