STUDENTS AND BENEFITS

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1 The Advice Centre STUDENTS AND BENEFITS University of Southampton Students Union

2 The Advice Centre OPEN Monday-Friday 9.00am pm Contacting: The Advice Centre: Telephone: Fax: Website: Address: Students Union Building 40 Southampton University University Road Highfield Southampton SO17 1BJ We are an appointments based service, however occasionally quick queries can be dealt with immediately. All other enquiries will need an appointment. The advice and information service is provided by a team of trained and experienced staff who deal with matters of particular relevance to students. The Advice Centre Mission Statement: The Advice Centre aims to provide all students at the University of Southampton with free, independent, confidential advice and representation in a friendly, relaxed environment. 2

3 Introduction The aim of this booklet is to provide general guidelines for students intending to claim benefits. It is not the purpose of this leaflet to provide comprehensive information on individual entitlement. The rules regarding entitlement depend on your circumstances, as well as the constantly developing rules regarding individual welfare benefits. For further advice on up to date benefits information, and how they may apply to your own circumstances we recommend you seek further advice. Either contact The Advice Centre or the organisations listed in the back of this booklet. Generally, full-time students are not entitled to most benefits for the duration of their course. You are treated as a student until either the last day of your course, or until you abandon it or are dismissed from it. The majority of students are not entitled to receive benefits; if you think you may be entitled to help please read this leaflet carefully and seek advice from The Advice Centre. Can I claim? Anyone can make a claim for benefits, but this doesn t mean they will be entitled. An important exception is International Students - please read page 6 for the potential implications of making a claim. 3

4 Benefit Income Support Jobseekers Allowance Housing Benefit Are full time students usually entitled? NO NO NO Which students may be eligible (not an exhaustive list) Lone Parents with children under 7. Part-time students, student couples with children, students who have suspended. Students in Nominal Registration. Lone Parents, students with disabilities, student couples with children, students who receive Income Support or income based JSA, pensioners, students who have suspended due to illness or caring responsibilities. Child Benefit YES All students with children. Disability Benefits YES All students with disabilities. Health Service Benefits YES Those with a low income, those on other welfare benefits. Tax Credits YES All students with children. Employment & Support Allowance NO Part-time students with limited capability for work and full time students who get disability living allowance. Some students who have suspended for health reasons. 4

5 N.B Students who fall into one of these categories are not automatically entitled to help, individual circumstances will play an important role in determining the success of your claim. Time Out (suspension from studies) Can I claim benefits if I take time out during my studies? Remember, you can always make a claim (International Students need to be aware of potential implications). However, normally you will still be considered a student and therefore not entitled (see above). You are more likely to be entitled to some help if you take time out due to illness or caring responsibilities, but the regulations are strict and help is limited. Speak to a Student Adviser for further guidance. Any potential entitlement will depend on your individual circumstances, for example, the length of time you have been ill. If you are taking time out because of pregnancy the rules say you are not entitled to specific benefits until the child has been born (or in certain circumstances 11 weeks before your due date) and you are responsible for your child. Please contact The Advice Centre for further information on any of the above. Students considering taking time out should consult our booklet Changing or Leaving Your Course, and talk through the implications with an adviser. Full-Time or Part-Time? Some students need to change their mode of study from full-time to part-time or vice versa. This is usually for health or financial reasons. It is usually best to make the change at the start of a new academic year rather than part way through. Make an appointment with an adviser at The Advice Centre to discuss how any change will affect your funding and benefits. 5

6 International Students I am an International Student, can I claim? If you are an International Student please do not attempt to claim welfare benefits before checking the implications with a Student Adviser. Talk to The Advice Centre even if someone from the Department for Works and Pensions, or other Government Department, says you can claim. We advise contacting our office, or a specialist advice service, before signing benefit forms. International Students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who require a visa to come to the UK, or have restrictions on their leave to remain in the UK, are restricted in terms of benefit entitlement. Such students have no recourse to public funds, and the majority of welfare benefits fall within this category. Contact The Advice Centre for a complete list of those benefits that are defined as public funds. If you claim a benefit that is classed as public funds and you are not entitled to do so this could have serious consequences. Your existing permission to remain in the UK may be revoked, and you could be required to leave the UK without completing your studies and pay back any money that has been paid to you in error. If you were in receipt of Child Benefit before 7th October 1996 then you may still be entitled to receive this benefit without jeopardising your immigration status. Your claim might be reviewed, on a standard annual basis and then be stopped by the Department for Work and Pensions. If this occurs - contact The Advice Centre for guidance. 6

7 Newly arrived students cannot claim, but some countries have reciprocal agreements with the UK that allow Nationals from those countries to claim Child Benefit. The Advice Centre can provide a list of countries which have such reciprocal agreements with the UK. NHS services and legal assistance are not classed as public funds. How will I be affected if I am classed as a student from the European Economic Area (EEA)? Many EEA students are treated in the same way as UK students for benefit purposes. Such students may, however, have to fulfil specific criteria. They may, for instance, have to fulfil residence conditions, often referred to as the habitual residence test (or HRT). See for more information. Income Support What is Income Support? Income Support is an income-related benefit which provides financial help for certain people who are not currently employed and cannot be expected to get a job and whose income, from all sources, is below a minimum level set by Parliament. It is a type of welfare benefit, and is a passport benefit. This means that entitlement to Income Support could give you access to Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, help with health costs and potential access to the benefits processed by the Social Fund (although entitlement to Social Fund payments is not automatic). Since October 1996, and the introduction of Jobseeker s Allowance, you need to meet all the criteria for Income Support and not be required to be available for work under the benefit regulations. 7

8 The majority of students claiming Income Support will have any grant/loan taken into consideration as income, and you will often not be entitled to this benefit. Even if you decide not to take out the student loan, you are entitled to this money therefore it will be included for the purposes of benefit calculation. Can I claim Income Support (IS)? Remember anyone can claim, but that is not the same as being entitled (read earlier section on International Students for further guidance). Income Support and Incapacity Benefit are replaced by Employment and Support Allowance from 27th October 2008 for new claims on the grounds of disability. Lone parents with a child under 7 will still be able to claim Income Support. Job Seeker s Allowance (JSA) How does Job Seeker s Allowance differ from Income Support? Firstly, a requirement of your claim would be that you are available for, and actively seeking, work. Benefit regulations argue full-time students fail these criteria by definition and are therefore not entitled. If you make a claim for this benefit, and are entitled, you may be required to specify the steps you will take to find employment, and evidence these at a later date. Below there are examples of students who may be entitled to help if they meet other relevant criteria: 1. Postgraduate students in nominal registration (given the conditions in the above paragraph regarding employment). 2. Part-time students (ensuring you have checked all the implications of the employment requirements for your studying). 8

9 3. Student couples with at least one child may be entitled to JSA during the long summer vacation. 4. Students waiting to go back on their course, having taken approved time out of a course because of an illness or caring responsibility that has now come to an end. Help with Housing Costs Can I study and claim Housing Benefit? Remember, you can always claim, but that is not the same as entitlement (International Students should seek advice). Housing Benefit is a means tested benefit for people responsible for paying rent, and may sometimes help with other housing costs. Full time students are not normally eligible but you can claim if: 1. You study part-time (less than 21 hours per week). 2. You receive Income Support/Jobseekers Allowance or Employment & Support Allowance. 3. You are a lone parent with a dependent child under 16 (or under 20 in fulltime non-advanced education). Remember: if you are a student who is not entitled to JSA, check to see if you can claim Income Support instead. If you have a partner who is not a full-time student, s/he might be able to include you on their claim. 9

10 4. You have a disability which qualifies you for Disability Living Allowance or Long Term Incapacity Benefit or you are registered blind. 5. You are full-time students in a partnership with a dependent child. 6. A student s partner if they meet the means test requirements. It is assumed that a proportion of your grant / loan is for housing costs, and this is taken into account when your income is assessed. You may find you are not entitled if you: 1. Do not come within one of the exceptional categories of students entitled to Housing Benefit. 2. Have a landlord who is a relative. Housing Benefit & Halls From July 2004 lone parent students, student couples with children and students with a disability became eligible to claim Housing Benefit for accommodation provided by their educational establishment. Local Housing Allowance Local Housing Allowance (LHA) was introduced in April This now means that instead of a rent officer visiting to see whether your rent is set fairly there are now set limits for each type of property. The three main changes to the old system are as follows: Housing Benefit will be paid to the tenant rather than directly to the Landlord, except in cases where vulnerability means the tenants are unlikely to be able to manage their affairs or where tenants have fallen in to 8 weeks arrears. 10

11 Customers will be given help and advice in opening a bank account. This will allow tenants to receive payments directly. It is a flat rate allowance towards rent costs based on the market rent of the property set by the Rent Service. LHA rates can be found in The Advice Centre or by visiting your local government website. For Southampton this is Can I claim help with Housing Costs if I own my own home? If you have a mortgage and are entitled to one of the passport benefits, Income Support/Job Seekers Allowance/ESA, you may get help with paying the interest on your mortgage. However, the rules are complex, and relate to when you took your mortgage out. Make an appointment with an Advice Centre Student Adviser for up to date information. Council Tax Benefit I am a student in full-time registration, should I pay Council Tax? No, you should not normally be liable if you live in halls or in a private rented house with other students. There is a separate booklet on Students and Council Tax which is available from The Advice Centre, and we are more than happy to advise you based on your individual circumstances. For example, we would suggest you contact The Advice Centre if you have suspended from your course, or you are an external student. 11

12 Child Benefit Who is Child Benefit for? Child Benefit is for people who are responsible for a child. It is not a means tested benefit, nor does it depend on National Insurance contributions. It is normally paid for each dependent child under the age of 16, and for dependent children provided they remain in full time non-advanced education. Child Benefit is usually paid at these weekly 2011/12 rates: Only/eldest child Other children Only parents claiming and receiving the Lone Parent rate before 6th July 1998 are paid at the higher Lone Parent rate. Working Families Tax Credit What is Working Families Tax Credit? In April 2003 two new means tested Tax Credits were introduced. The following have replaced Working Families Tax Credit: Child Tax Credit - for families with children (whether in or out of work). Working Tax Credit - for working adults. Student loans and grants to meet the costs of tuition fees, childcare and other course related costs are not treated as income in new claims for tax credits. However, the Adult Dependents Grant and Childcare Grant will be taken into account. 12

13 Who qualifies for Child Tax Credit? Because there is no work or capital limit, all students can claim (see above on International Students for exceptions). To qualify you must be: Aged 16 or over (both partners in a couple must be aged 16 or over). And live in the UK. And be responsible for a child/young person, aged under 16, or under 19 if in full-time non-advanced education. If a young person leaves school at 16, Child Tax Credit (CTC) is paid until 1st September following their 16th birthday. CTC is also paid for a 20 week period after a young person has left full-time education, if they are registered for work or training. To be responsible for a child/young person the child/young person must normally live with the claimant. Where there are competing claims CTC will be awarded to the person who has the main responsibility. Parents/carers can choose who this is - otherwise Inland Revenue will decide. Some children/young people are excluded: those in local authority care or placed for adoption, in detention, or claiming CTC in their own right. How can I establish if I am eligible? 1. Calling the HM Revenue and Customs Helpline on Visit: 3. Contact your local HMRC enquiry Centre. 13

14 Financial Support for Students with Disabilities The rules regarding students and disabilities are complex. Contact The Advice Centre if you have a disability, or care for a person with a disability, for further guidance. Alternatively, you can contact the Benefit Enquiry Line for advice for people with a disability as well as their carers/representative. You can also contact Southampton University s Enabling Service (contact details are at the back of this booklet). Employment and Support Allowance from 27th October 2008 Any new claim made for Incapacity Benefit will be treated as a claim for ESA after the 27th October This is a brand new benefit system which encourages people back to work as soon as possible when they have suffered from sickness. The rules are complex and some people (especially disabled lone parents) may find that they would be better off not claiming this benefit. If you feel you may wish to apply for this benefit then please seek advice from The Advice Centre or the University Disability Service who will be able to help you. As with Incapacity Benefit students are not automatically treated as capable of work simply because they are studying. Disabled Students Allowance Disabled Students Allowances are grants to help meet the extra costs of studying that students face as a direct result of a disability or specific learning difficulty. They are designed to help disabled students study on an equal basis with other students. The allowances provide help for full-time, part-time and postgraduate students. The amount you can get does not depend on your household income. You do not have to repay this help. 14

15 To apply, you will need to show Student Finance England written proof of your disability from an appropriate medical professional. For more information visit: Education/DG_ or the University Enabling Service (contact details at back of booklet). Disability Living Allowance (DLA) Disability Living Allowance is paid to people with severe physical or mental disabilities with either personal care needs, mobility needs or both. Your entitlement is based on how much help with personal care and/or mobility you need because of your disability. This is used as a broad indicator of the extra costs arising from your disability. For details on how to claim you can call a confidential telephone service for people with disabilities and their carers. Ring the Benefit Enquiry Line (BEL) on Other Help for Disabled Students Blue Badge Scheme The Blue Badge Scheme is a parking concession for people with severe mobility problems. The scheme also incorporates visually impaired people who have use of a vehicle. It assists by allowing scheme users to park closer to places they need access to. Please contact Southampton Social Services if you require any further information on this scheme. (Contact details at back of booklet) 15

16 If you display a current Blue Badge you should not be wheel clamped, but the police can remove vehicles if you cause an obstruction. Help with NHS Costs Most NHS treatment is free, but if you are over 19 years of age and a full-time student you may incur prescription charges. This may not be the case if you are in receipt of one of the passport benefits. It may also be possible to obtain an exemption certificate if you have a specific relevant medical condition. Contact your doctor / chemist, or speak to an Advice Centre Student Adviser, if you require further information on qualifying conditions. If you are on a low income you can apply for help with Health Costs using an HC1 form. If you have already incurred charges a refund may be available by completing a HC5 form (you need receipts and also must act promptly). Both of the above forms are available from The Advice Centre. Also, contact The Advice Centre for information on free dental treatment. Claiming Benefits How do I claim? People of working age wanting to claim a benefit should contact Jobcentre Plus by phone. If you want to make a claim for benefit you will speak to someone who will take your claim details, send you the relevant forms and arrange a meeting with a personal adviser. The details of Jobcentre Plus are in the back of this booklet. If you live in an area not covered by Jobcentre Plus you will need to contact the relevant department in your local office - see the numbers in the back of this booklet. If you are claiming Job Seeker s Allowance/Income Support you can claim Housing Benefit/Council Tax Benefit at the same time by filling in the short forms provided in the claim pack. You will then be sent a form to fill in about where you live, your rent etc. 16

17 Alternatively, you may collect Housing Benefit forms directly from the relevant Council. (See contact details at back of booklet.) What if I think a mistake has been made with my claim? If your application for benefit has been refused you should be informed, and given details of what to do if you think the decision is wrong. As benefits regulations are complex, and timescales restrictive you should seek specialist advice before proceeding with appeals. An adviser from The Advice Centre would be happy to help you in such circumstances. The Advice Centre will not collude with students deliberately undertaking a fraudulent claim, but will be happy to help you appeal or with money management if you are not entitled to welfare benefits. 17

18 CONTACTS: The Advice Centre Students Union Building 40 Highfield, Southampton, SO17 1BJ Tel: HM Revenue & Customs - Tax Credits Helpline - Tel: Enabling Service Student Services Centre Building 37 Highfield Campus edusupport/ Tel: Mentoring Student Services Centre Tel: Benefit Enquiry Line (BEL) for people with disabilities Tel: Disability Benefits Helpline - Tel: Blue Badge Team - Tel: Jobcentre Plus - Southampton Jobcentre Plus 18 Bernard Street Southampton, SO14 3PJ Tel: Winchester Jobcentre Plus City Gate, City Road Winchester SO23 8GB Tel:

19 OTHER PUBLICATIONS IN THIS SERIES 19

20 University of Southampton Students Union The Advice Centre Please note that at time of publication every effort was made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this booklet. The Advice Centre and University of Southampton Students Union cannot accept responsibility for errors, omissions, or subsequent changes in legal requirements. The Information and figures quoted in this publication were believed to be accurate at the time of going to print, but may be subject to change. August 2011 Alternative Formats of this leaflet are available on request.

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