Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit for disabled students

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1 Information Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit for disabled students You may photocopy this information booklet You may quote from this information booklet if you acknowledge the source Skill information booklets are available in standard print, large print, Braille, audio and disk formats Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy. However, Skill cannot guarantee factual content Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities Chief Executive: Benet Middleton Unit 3, Floor 3, Radisson Court, 219 Long Lane, London SE1 4PR Website: Tel: Fax: Information Service: Tuesdays 11.30am-1.30pm and Thursdays 1.30pm-3.30pm Tel: or Textphone: Skill is a company limited by guarantee ( ) and a registered charity (801971), also registered in Scotland (SC039212)

2 Skill would like to thank Disability Alliance for updating this booklet Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit for disabled students Contents Page 1 Introduction 2 2 What are Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit? 3 3 Who can claim Housing Benefit? 4 4 What type of accommodation is covered? 7 5 How is Housing Benefit calculated? 10 6 What else do I need to know? 14 7 How do I claim Housing Benefit 15 8 Is my home exempt from Council Tax 17 9 Who can claim Council Tax Benefit (CTB)? How is the calculation made? How to make a claim What is the Second Adult Rebate (SAR) What is the Disability Reduction Scheme Can I get any Council Tax discounts How can I appeal against a benefit decision? Useful Resources 244 1

3 About this booklet This booklet explains: whether you can claim Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit how study-related income, such as student loans, might affect the amount of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit you can get. Calculating what you are entitled to can be complicated. It depends on your own circumstances and your level of income. If you need help to work out how much you are entitled to, ask your Students Union welfare adviser or your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Skill can t advise on individual benefit claims or make benefit calculations for you. In this booklet, partner means husband or wife or civil partner, or someone who lives with you as though they were your husband or wife or civil partner. 2

4 2 What are Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit? Housing Benefit helps people on low incomes pay their rent. It is a means-tested benefit so the amount you get depends on how much other money you have coming in. You may think you have too much income to claim Housing Benefit. However, some income is ignored when assessing your claim. Council Tax Benefit helps people on low incomes pay their Council Tax. It is also a means-tested benefit. Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit are administered by local authorities. If you are already claiming Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit and you begin to study, you must tell your local authority about this change of circumstances. They may review the amount of benefit you receive. We list some information leaflets at the end if you need more advice and help. They are available from Jobcentre Plus or the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). 3

5 About Housing Benefit 3 Who can claim Housing Benefit? Everyone has to meet some basic conditions before they can claim this benefit. Students also have to meet some specific conditions. Basic conditions Your income is low enough. You do not have more than 16,000 in savings and capital. (Capital includes savings accounts in banks or building societies or in cash and most redundancy payments.this capital rule does not apply to people over 60 who get the Guarantee Credit of the Pension Credit) You normally occupy the accommodation as your home, or you are only temporarily away from it You are treated as being liable for rent and the payments you make are eligible for Housing Benefit You are habitually resident in the UK and you are not subject to immigration control. Specific conditions Being able to claim Housing Benefit depends partly on whether you are studying full time or part time. Most full-time students can t claim Housing Benefit. However, some full-time disabled students can claim Housing Benefit. For part-time students If you are studying part time then you can claim Housing Benefit as long as you meet the basic conditions. 4

6 For trainees on government training schemes If you are a trainee on a government training scheme, you are not classed as a student. You can claim Housing Benefit if you meet the basic conditions. For full-time students Most full-time students can t claim Housing Benefit. However, you may be able to claim while studying if one of the following applies to you. You get Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support or Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) as a full-time student You have or are treated as having a limited capability for work under ESA rules for a continuous period of 28 weeks (two or more periods of limited capability can be added together if they are no more than 12 weeks apart) You qualify for a Disability Premium or Severe Disability Premium you have been incapable of work, under the old Incapacity Benefit personal capability assessment rules for 28 weeks (two or more periods of incapacity can be added together if they are no more than eight weeks apart) You qualify for Disabled Students' Allowances because of deafness You are a lone parent with a dependent child or qualifying young person under 20 You are one of a couple and your partner is not a student. Your partner can claim Housing Benefit (the student rules will apply to your income) You are one of a couple, your partner is also a student and you have a dependent child. You will be eligible for Housing Benefit throughout the course (not just in the summer vacation as for Income-Based Jobseeker s Allowance and Income Support) 5

7 You, or your partner, are aged 60 or over You can get Housing Benefit temporarily while waiting to return to your course after an agreed break because you were ill or had to care for someone. You can get Housing Benefit once you have recovered or your caring responsibilities have ended until either the date you return to your course or the date your education establishment has agreed you can return to your course, whichever is earlier, but only for a maximum period of one year and as long as you are not eligible for a student loan or grant during this time. What about Disability Premiums? These are extra payments based on additional daily costs. You may qualify for the Disability Premium if: you receive Disability Living Allowance paid at any rate; or you receive Incapacity Benefit at the long-term rate; or you receive Incapacity Benefit at the special short-term rate because you are terminally ill; or you receive Severe Disablement Allowance; or you have been assessed as incapable of work and have claimed Incapacity Benefit or statutory sick pay for 364 days, or 196 days if you have been certified as terminally ill ; or you receive the disability element or severe disability element of Working Tax Credit; or you are registered blind. You can t get the Disability Premium if you are getting Employment and Support Allowance and have a limited capability for work. As well as the Disability Premium you may also qualify for the Severe Disability Premium. You qualify for this if: 6

8 you receive Attendance Allowance or the middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance; and you do not have a partner or a non-dependant normally living with you (there are exceptions get advice about this); and no-one gets Carer s Allowance for looking after you. 4 What type of accommodation is covered? The type of accommodation you are renting affects whether you can claim Housing Benefit and how much you can get. College or university rented accommodation If you are a full-time student who qualifies for Housing Benefit, you can claim Housing Benefit to help pay the rent on your college or university accommodation, including halls of residence. If you are away from your term-time accommodation If the main reason you occupy your home is to be able to attend your course, you cannot usually claim Housing Benefit for any full week in which you are away from that home outside your period of study. But if you are away from home because you are in hospital, you can claim Housing Benefit during your absence. Accommodation which is not your main home You can sometimes claim Housing Benefit on accommodation that is not your main home. This applies when you have two homes and you make payments for only one of the homes (including mortgage payments on either home). You can claim benefit for the accommodation you make payments for if you are a student who qualifies for Housing Benefit or you are on a training course and you live in one home during study periods and another during vacations. This rule only applies to single people, including lone parents. 7

9 People with two homes You can usually only get Housing Benefit on one home. There are some ways in which you may get Housing Benefit on two homes. This can happen if: you are part of a couple and either you or your partner is a student who can claim Housing Benefit or a trainee on a government course and you have to live apart and it is reasonable for you to receive Housing Benefit on both properties; or you have moved into a new home and you could not reasonably avoid paying rent on your old home. This applies for four weeks only. Help on two homes may also be available if there has been a delay in making any adaptations you need as a disabled person. This also applies for four weeks only. Ask your local authority for more advice. Living with other people If you live with a partner and both of you are liable to pay rent then one of you can claim Housing Benefit for you both. If you are part of a group of people living together and all or some of you are jointly liable for the rent, then all those who are liable can make separate claims for Housing Benefit. The amount you receive will be based on your share of the rent. You cannot usually get Housing Benefit if you live in a close relative s house. When you are temporarily away from your home If you are temporarily away from your home and have not rented the property out, you may still get Housing Benefit on the home you have left. You can get Housing Benefit for up to 13 weeks if you are unlikely to be absent for any longer than this; or 8

10 you can get Housing Benefit for up to 52 weeks if you are unlikely to be absent for any longer than this and - you are in hospital or receiving medically-approved care in the UK or abroad; or - you are on an approved training course in the UK or abroad; or - you are a student who qualifies for Housing Benefit. For example, if you get Housing Benefit for your permanent home and temporarily move into halls of residence, you should be able to carry on receiving Housing Benefit on your main home. There are other circumstances where you can claim Housing Benefit when you are temporarily absent. Check with your local authority if you think you may be able to claim for another reason. Residential care homes You cannot normally claim Housing Benefit if you are in a permanent residential care placement. 9

11 5 How is Housing Benefit calculated? Calculating the amount of your Housing Benefit can be complicated. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau or the welfare adviser in the Students Union, if you have one, can help you work out the amount you are likely to receive. Housing Benefit is calculated using a formula like this. Housing Benefit = Maximum HB (Excess income) x65% You are automatically entitled to your maximum Housing Benefit if you qualify for: Income Support Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance the guarantee element of Pension Credit or Income-Based Jobseeker s Allowance. Your income does not have to be assessed again and only your Housing Benefit needs to be worked out. How is your weekly income worked out? If you do not receive Income Support, Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance, the guarantee element of Pension Credit or Income-Based Jobseeker s Allowance, your applicable amount and weekly income have to be worked out. This calculation (for people under 60) is explained in Skill s information booklet Income Support for disabled students. For people over 60, this part of the Housing Benefit assessment is slightly different but the rules are similar. Further Housing Benefit information: 10

12 How is your maximum Housing Benefit worked out? There are several steps to working out your maximum Housing Benefit. What is the eligible rent? This is the amount of your rent that is taken into account when calculating your Housing Benefit. Your eligible rent is often not the same as the actual rent you are paying. Certain charges that may be included in your rent, such as heating, water, personal laundry, or food, may not be covered by Housing Benefit. Ask your local council or a local advice project for more advice. If you ve been living in private rented accommodation since before 7 April 2008 you may not get all of your rent paid if the local authority thinks that your property is too large for your needs or too expensive. A Rent Officer will decide whether these restrictions should apply. You can ask the Rent Officer to assess your rent before choosing to take on a particular tenancy. Contact your local authority s Housing Benefit department for more information. If you moved into, or claimed housing benefit for, private accommodation on or after 7 April 2008 your housing benefit eligible rent will be assessed under the Local Housing Allowance scheme (LHA). Some people, in pilot areas, started getting housing benefit under the Local Housing Allowance scheme before 7 April Local Housing Allowance This is a set amount of housing benefit paid if you are in private sector rented accommodation. The amount you get depends on: 11

13 the area where you live the number of bedrooms you need whether you pass the low income test whether you have non-dependants living with you. Local Housing Allowance lets you rent a property where the rent is lower than the Local Housing Allowance level. You could still be paid this Local Housing Allowance rate and you are allowed to keep the difference. However, the amount that you can keep is restricted so that it can never be more than 15 above the rent you pay. If your Local Housing Allowance level is less than your rent, even if you are entitled to maximum benefit, you are expected to pay the difference or find cheaper accommodation. The Local Housing Allowance scheme applies only to properties in the deregulated private sector. Currently the scheme does not apply to: council properties housing associations tenancies that started before 1989 properties where the landlord provides you with care, support or supervision exceptional cases - caravans, mobile homes, houseboats, hostels and bed and breakfast establishments; or tenancies where a substantial amount of rent is for board and attendance, such as hotel accommodation private rented accommodation which you have been living in since before 7 April What about non-dependant deductions? 12

14 A non-dependant is someone who lives in your home but who is not part of your family for benefit purposes, for example adult sons or daughters. For each non-dependant who lives with you a deduction is made to your maximum Housing Benefit. To be treated as a non-dependant the person must be over 18, not the partner of the person claiming and not a joint owneroccupier, tenant, boarder, lodger, sub-tenant or a paid carer provided by a charity or voluntary organisation. The amount that is deducted will depend on the non-dependant s income. If they are under 25 and on Income Support, Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance or Income-Based Job seeker s Allowance (JSA), or if they are a full-time student, then no deduction is made. Non-dependant deductions are not made if you or your partner is registered blind or receives the DLA care component or Attendance Allowance. What is your maximum Housing Benefit? This is the rent charged minus any ineligible charges, Rent Officer reductions and non-dependant deductions. What is your excess income? Your applicable amount is subtracted from your income. The amount left over is called your excess income. What is your final Housing Benefit amount? 65% of your excess income is subtracted from your maximum Housing Benefit. Whatever is left is the amount of Housing Benefit you will get each week. 13

15 6 What else do I need to know? Stopping your course If you give up or are dismissed from your course, you can claim Housing Benefit from that date as long as you meet the other conditions for claiming. If you complete one programme of study and start a different programme of study, you are not treated as a student in the time between these programmes. Placements If you are on an unpaid sandwich placement or your study includes an optional or compulsory period on placement, you are treated as a full-time student during this time, even if you are unable to find a placement or the placement ends early. Intercalating students If you intercalate (take time out from your programme of study) because of illness or for any other reason, you are still a registered student. You can continue to claim Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Jobseeker s Allowance as a student while taking time out, for a maximum of one year. Summer holiday period To calculate student income, the academic year is divided into four quarters. Skill s information booklet Income Support for disabled students gives more details about how student income is treated. Any student income you receive is usually only for term time and is not counted during the Summer quarter. If you receive Housing Benefit, you should get more during the long vacation. You may need to check that it has gone up or remind your local authority. If you don t qualify for Housing Benefit during the three academic quarters, but you would qualify during the Summer quarter, make sure you claim Housing Benefit over the summer. You can make an advance claim a few weeks before the vacation starts. 14

16 7 How do I claim Housing Benefit? If you claim Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance or Income-Based Jobseeker s Allowance, you may already have a Housing Benefit application form. If not, ask your local authority or your local Jobcentre Plus for one. Return the completed form to your local authority. If you don t receive Income Support, Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance or Income-Based Jobseeker s Allowance, you can claim by phoning your local authority. You can also ask them for a claim form. When should I claim? You must claim straight away so that your Housing Benefit payments can start as soon as possible. You can make an advance claim for Housing Benefit up to 13 weeks before you become entitled to it. To do this you must know what your rent and income will be. Claiming by post It s a good idea to: complete the form as fully as possible keep a copy of it, if you can keep a copy of any evidence you send, such as rent details, other benefits, or wage slips make a note of the date you posted the form. I If you have any difficulties, ask for help from your local Citizens Advice Bureau, the welfare adviser in your Students Union or a local disability organisation. 15

17 Claiming backdated payments You may be able to get Housing Benefit backdated for 6 months with good cause if you are under 60 3 months for any reason if you are age 60 or over. If you ask for you Housing Benefit to be backdated under the six month rule you must show that there has been a continuing good cause for the late claim. The local authority will assess this good cause on an individual basis. If your income and savings are low enough, local authorities will pay Housing Benefit whether or not you receive Income Support. 16

18 About Council Tax Benefit 8 Is my home exempt from Council Tax? If you live in certain kinds of homes, or dwellings, you don t have to pay any Council Tax. The homes that are exempt include: halls of residence mainly occupied by students dwellings where all the residents are students dwellings wholly occupied by people under 18 dwellings where all occupants who would be liable for Council Tax are severely mentally impaired in Scotland, a housing association trial flat for pensioners or for disabled people. If you live in what is called a dwelling in multiple occupation, like a house that is split into separate flats, the person normally liable for the Council Tax is the non-resident landlord (they don t live on the premises). You can get more advice about this from your local authority, Students Union or from the National Union of Students (NUS). 17

19 9 Who can claim Council Tax Benefit? Everyone has to meet some basic conditions before they can claim this benefit. Students also have to meet some specific conditions. Basic conditions You are liable for Council Tax for the home where you are normally resident. Your income is low enough. You do not have more than 16,000 savings and capital. (This does not apply if you receive Guarantee Credit of the Pension Credit) You meet the habitual residence test and you are not subject to immigration control. Specific conditions If you are a full time student you do not normally have to pay Council Tax. If you have a non-student partner, you are not liable to pay council tax but your partner is. He or she may be able to get council tax benefit for both of you or a discount. If you are liable to pay Council Tax, you can get Council Tax Benefit if you are a student who qualifies for Housing Benefit (See the Housing Benefit section). 18

20 10 How is Council Tax Benefit calculated? As with Income Support and Housing Benefit, the calculation looks at your income and savings. Any capital over 6,000 will affect how much you can get. Capital includes savings accounts in banks or building societies or in cash and most redundancy payments. 11 How do I make a claim? If you claim Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance or Income-Based Jobseeker s Allowance, you may already have a Council Tax Benefit application form. If not, ask your local authority or your local Jobcentre Plus for one. Return the completed form to your local authority. If you don t receive Income Support, Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance or Income-Based Jobseeker s Allowance, you can claim by phoning your local authority. You can also ask them for a claim form. You can claim Council Tax Benefit even if you have already paid this year s Council Tax bill in advance. Council Tax Benefit is paid by local authorities whether or not you receive Income Support. They will simply reduce your Council Tax bill instead of making you a payment. 19

21 12 What is the Second Adult Rebate? The Second Adult Rebate is an alternative to Council Tax Benefit and is not affected by your income or savings. You can get the rebate if one or more second adults lives with you. A second adult must be all of the following. Aged 18 or over; and Not paying rent to you; and Not liable to pay Council Tax; and On a low income; and A non-dependant. The local authority will assess you for Council Tax Benefit and Second Adult Rebate and will award you whichever is the higher amount. You can t get both at the same time. Contact your local authority to make a claim. 20

22 13 What is the Disability Reduction Scheme? As a disabled person, your living in a property may lead to a reduction in the Council Tax bill. The Disability Reduction Scheme applies if you or another resident are substantially and permanently disabled. You can be living in any type of home, but one or more of the following criteria must apply. The property: has a second bathroom or kitchen that is needed by the disabled person has a room (other than a bathroom or kitchen) that is needed by the disabled person has enough space indoors if the disabled person needs to use a wheelchair. If you are awarded a Disability Reduction, your Council Tax bill will be lowered to that of a property in the Council Tax valuation band below the one your home is in. If your property is already in the lowest band, your bill is reduced by one sixth. This is not Council Tax Benefit You must make a separate claim for Council Tax Benefit to your local authority. More information on Council Tax for students The National Union of Students (NUS) produces an information sheet called Students and the Council Tax which covers all the issues in this booklet. Go to (Advice > Money > Information Sheets library) or phone the NUS for a copy. Contact details are in the Useful Resources section of this booklet. 21

23 14 Can I get any Council Tax discounts? A normal council tax bill assumes that there are two occupiers in a property. Half the charge is for the property itself and half is for the two occupiers. If you live with other people you may be able to get a discount of 25% or 50% off the council tax bill if any of the other occupiers are disregarded for council tax purposes. Ask for advice about this. If you live alone or just with other students you will be exempt from Council Tax. 22

24 15 How can I appeal against a Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit decision? You have the right to make an appeal if you are unhappy with a decision about your Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit entitlement. You must make an appeal within one month of a decision on your claim, using appeal form GL24: If you think our decision is wrong. You can ask for a written statement of reasons for the decision. If you ask for reasons, this extends the one-month time limit by 14 days. If no-one sends you the reasons until after the one-month appeal time limit has ended, you then have 14 days from the date the reasons are sent in which to appeal. There is more information about this in the DWP leaflets on appeals. Skill also produces an information booklet called Making a complaint. See the Useful Resources section for full details. 23

25 16 Useful Resources Other Skill information booklets Funding further education for disabled students Funding higher education for disabled students Income Support for disabled students Making a complaint Studying and claiming benefits as incapable of work Available in alternative formats. Price 2.50 each. Disabled students or jobseekers can get up to 5 booklets free of charge. You can order the booklets from Skill s online Bookshop or contact the Information Service. You can also download them as Word documents from the Information Sheets section of the website. Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) leaflets DLAA5DCS - Disability Living Allowance GL24DWP - If you think our decision is wrong HB5 - A guide to non-contributory benefits for disabled people and their carers NI260 - A guide to Revision, Supersession and Appeal Available from your local jobcentre or the Jobcentre Plus website (Leaflets and Guides section), or from the DWP website at (Benefits A-Z section). Leaflets also include benefits claim forms. 24

26 Publications Disability Rights Handbook Published by Disability Alliance First Floor East, Universal House, Wentworth Street, London E1 7SA Tel/textphone: Fax: Priced publication. Has detailed information on all sickness and disability benefits. Gives examples of Income Support / Housing Benefit calculations. NUS Information sheets Cover welfare benefits and rights. Available from the National Union of Students (NUS). See the Organisations section for contact details. Student Support and benefits: England and Wales Published by the Child Poverty Action Group 94 White Lion Street, London N1 9PF Tel: Fax: Priced publication. Studying on the dole Published by Unemployment Unit First Floor, 87/89 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TP Tel: Fax: Welfare Benefits Handbook Published by the Child Poverty Action Group 94 White Lion Street, London N1 9PF Tel: Fax: Priced publication 25

27 Organisations Benefit Enquiry Line for disabled people England, Scotland, Wales: Tel: Text: (Open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 6.30pm, Saturday 9am to 1pm) Northern Ireland: Tel: Text: (Open Monday to Friday 9am- 5pm) Benefits Agency / DWP Website: Free advice service provided by the Benefits Agency Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) Your local CAB should be listed in the telephone directory and details are also on the national website: This site also links to the CABs welfare benefits advice guide that is available at Dial UK (national office) Tel: Fax: Website: Network of disability information and advice line services (DIALs). The national office will give you details of your nearest service. Local DIALS can give advice on issues such as welfare benefits, community care, equipment, independent living, transport etc. National Union of Students (NUS) 2nd floor, Centro 3, Mandela Street, London, NW1 ODU Tel: Fax: Textphone: Website: Gives advice and produces information on welfare rights for students. Offices also in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. 26

28 Students Unions Most Students Unions in universities and colleges have a welfare department or welfare officer who can give advice about benefits and give help with calculations. Welfare Rights Units These are run by local authorities. Contact your local council or local library to find out if there is one in your area. April

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