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Study and benefits

study and benefits

When you’re living with a long-term health condition it's usually quite difficult to study full-time or part-time without any effect on your benefits.

The rules on studying and claiming benefits can be extremely complicated and it is usually best to seek advice on the matter before proceeding (see the link below on obtaining further advice from THT Direct. When you’re living with a long-term health condition it can be quite difficult to study either full-time or part-time without it having any effect on benefit entitlement.

It is important that you consider whether you'll be classed as a full-time or part-time student, as it will effect which benefits you can claim. Most full-time students are excluded from claiming means-tested benefits, but there are exceptions for certain groups such as disabled students, parents, some young people on further education courses and some other groups. Full-time students can claim Pension Credit if they meet the other conditions of entitlement. The rules on what constitutes a part-time and a full-time student can vary from benefit to benefit. However, for benefits such as Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance and income-related Employment and Support Allowance you will usually count as a full-time student if your personal ‘learning agreement’ involves more than 16 hours of ‘guided learning’ each week .

Benefits are affected in different ways when you study. Below are some of the most common ones that are affected:

  • Income Support and income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Incapacity Benefit and Contributory Employment and Support Allowance ESA
  • Housing and Council Tax Benefits
  • Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Carer's Allowance

If you are unsure about how your benefit will be affected by a course of study then please contact THT Direct and we’ll put you in touch with a local advice service, or you can look up your local CAB.

  1. IS & ESA
  2. Incapacity
  3. Housing
  4. Jobseekers
  5. Carers


Income Support & Employment and Support Allowance

You can get Income Support whilst studying part-time if you are not on a course described as full-time and you satisfy the other rules for getting Income Support.

Full-time students entitled to Income Support:

Even if you are a full-time student, you can qualify for Income Support (although most types of student funding will count as income) if you are:

  • A lone parent with a child under 5;
  • A lone foster carer of a child under 16;
  • A student from abroad with limited leave to remain in the UK without recourse to public funds and your funds from abroad are temporarily disrupted but are likely to resume. You can get IS for a maximum of six weeks;
  • Single, or one of a couple and both of you are full-time students, and you fit into one of the groups of people who can normally claim Income Support and you, or if your are one of a couple, either one or both of you are responsible for a child or young person and it is the summer vacation;
  • A refugee who is learning English to obtain employment.

The above is not necessarily a definitive list of those groups that can claim Income Support and it is best to seek advice on the matter before proceeding.

The current rules do not allow disabled students who are studying full-time to claim Income Support. However, if you fall into one of the transitional groups you may still be able to claim Income Support ‘on the grounds of disability’.

Before 30 December 2009, you fitted into one of the groups of people who could claim Income Support if any of the following applied to you:

You were incapable of work because of illness or disability and you satisfied the ‘own occupation test’ or the ‘personal capability assessment’ for Incapacity Benefit, or you were treated as incapable of work by a decision maker;

You were registered blind.

You were a full-time student and you:

  • Qualified for a disability premium or a severe disability premium; or
  • Had been incapable of work or entitled to Statutory Sick Pay for 196 days (28 weeks); or
  • Qualified for a disabled students’ allowance because you are deaf.

If you come within one of the groups above, you count as claiming income support ‘on the grounds of disability’. There are then two steps involved in working out if you can still qualify for IS ‘on the grounds of disability’. You should contact THT Direct to see if you might still qualify.

Income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

If you study a part-time course you will be able to carry on claiming income-related ESA. However, if you are studying full time you cannot qualify for income-related ESA unless you are receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

Note any student loan, grant or bursary may be assessed as income and affect the amount of income-related ESA, income- related job seekers allowance (JSA), housing benefit and council tax benefit.


Incapacity Benefit & Contributory ESA

If you are claiming Incapacity Benefit for a period which starts on or after 27 October 2008 it is only possible to qualify in limited circumstances and you may have to claim Employment and Support Allowance instead of Incapacity Benefit. You should seek advice from THT Direct if you are considering a new claim for IB or if you are currently a long-term recipient of this benefit.

If you study part-time then you can qualify for contributory ESA.

If you are studying full time then in most cases you can qualify for Contributory ESA in term-time and during your holidays.

However, you can't make a claim for contributory ESA in youth as this benefit was abolished for new claims from 1 May 2012.


Housing Benefit & Council Tax Benefits

You might be eligible for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefits if you start to study part-time.
If you decide to study full-time then you'll only be able to carry on claiming this benefit if you satisfy one of the following conditions:

  • You meet the conditions for the disability premium.
  • you've been incapable of work for 28 weeks or you have had (or been treated as having) limited capability for work for 28 weeks.
  • You're a lone parent with a dependent child or qualifying young person aged under 20.
  • You meet the conditions for the severe disability premium
  • You are on IS, income-based JSA or income-related ESA

The above list is not an exhaustive one.

If all the adult residents in your home are students you won't be liable to pay council tax.

Note any student loan, grant or bursary may be assessed as income and affect the amount of income-related ESA, income-based job seekers allowance, housing benefit. and council tax benefit.


Job Seekers Allowance

You can study part-time and get JSA if the training takes place outside the hours you are required to be available for work. The DWP needs to be satisfied that you are genuinely available for and actively seeking work, and you are:

  1. able to rearrange the hours of the course or study to fit around a job.
  2. you are willing and able to give up the course should a job become available.

Students attending a full-time course are normally excluded from JSA until the end of the course. However, there are exceptions:

  1. If you are single and responsible for a child, or if you are one of a couple, both of you are full-time students and either one or both of you is responsible for a child. This exception only applies during the summer vacation as long as you are available for work.
  2. Aged 25 years old and over and on an approved employment-related course.

There are some other groups that can qualify and you should contact THT Direct for further advice.


Carer's Allowance

If you study part-time you can claim Carer's Allowance as long as you are available to care for at least 35 hours a week.

If you study full-time you will not be eligible for Carer’s Allowance. If you are attending for 21 hours or more each week you are treated as being in full-time education.



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 31/5/2013 by T. Kelaart

Date due for the next review: 31/1/2014

Content Author: J. Band

Current Owner: J. Band

More information:

Disability Rights Handbook 35th Edition April 2010-April 2011

Study and benefits

Financing Studies page 196-198

Income Support page 198

Housing Benefit page 198-199

Council Tax Benefit page 199

The effect of a loan grant or bursary page 199-200

Contributory ESA and Incapacity Benefit page 200

Child Poverty Action Group Welfare benefits and tax credits 2010/2011

Study and benefits

Housing benefit and council tax benefit page 610 613

Full time students JSA page 601

Full time students Income Support page 602-603

Part time students

Income Support page 604

JSA page 604-606

Income-related ESA page 60


Full time student

Income related ESA page 608

Calculating income from grants and loans page 615-625