Means-tested welfare benefits

The main types of means-tested benefits are:

  • Income support (IS) – living cost support for people not expected to be available for work.
  • Income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance (IBJSA) – living cost support for people who have to be available for work.
  • Employment and Support Allowance, income-based (IBESA)
  • Housing benefit/Local Housing Allowance – help with rent (and rates in Northern Ireland).
  • Council tax support or reduction – help with the council tax.
  • Universal Credit

Most full-time medical students can’t claim ‘means- tested’ welfare benefits. The financial support you receive through grants and student loans is a replacement for these benefits.

For means-tested welfare benefits you’re counted as being a full-time student from the first day of your course until the last day of the course in your final academic year, including all the vacations, unless you abandon the course or are dismissed from it. This includes periods during which you have resits.

However, there are important exceptions to this rule:

  • Lone parents
  • Student couples with children
  • Students with a disability
  • Students who receive the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) because of deafness
  • Couples where one partner is not a student
  • Students who have been ill for 28 weeks
  • Students who’ve had to suspend their studies because of sickness or to care for someone who are now able to return to their course but can’t do so, e.g. until the beginning of the next academic year because of the way the course is organised. You can claim for up to a maximum of one year
  • Students from abroad whose funds have been temporarily disrupted e.g. a government scholarship delayed because of a natural disaster

Income Support, IBJSA, and IBESA can help with mortgage costs. You may get help after receiving benefit for thirteen weeks

Universal Credit is being introduced as part of the Governments welfare reforms. This is a single benefit that is paid to you if your income falls below a certain level. Universal Credit will eventually replace most means tested benefits. The national roll out was aimed to start in October 2013, however as of 2017 many areas have still not fully moved to Universal Credit.

Non means-tested benefits

There are some non means-tested welfare benefits you may be entitled to as a student because you’ve been working or because you have a disability. These include:

  • Employment and Support Allowance (the income related ESA is means tested)
  • Contribution-based Jobseekers’ Allowance (but you must be available for work)
  • Maternity Allowance (there are some working and earning requirements)
  • Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment. A non means-tested benefit for disabled people who need help with personal care or who have mobility problems

There are major changes to welfare benefits occurring in the months and years ahead. The Turn2us website gives information about these changes and gives a timetable for them.

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