Welfare Benefits

Full time students are not usually entitled to any means-tested Welfare Benefits.

There are some exceptions – for example, if you are the lone parent of a child under 5, you may be entitled to Income Support.  If you are a lone parent and your youngest child is above this age limit, you may be able to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) during the summer vacation.

You can qualify for Housing Benefit (HB) if you are a lone parent with a dependent child or qualifying young person under 20.  You can also be entitled to HB if you and your partner are both full-time students and you have a dependent child, if you are in receipt of a disability benefit, or if you are certified as severely sight-impaired or blind. One of you may also make a joint claim for Jobseekers’ Allowance in the summer vacation.

If you are already in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP), you should be able to continue your claim whilst studying. You are also entitled to make a new claim for PIP to assist with any day-to-day living or mobility problems. If you are in receipt of either DLA or PIP you may, in certain circumstances, also be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). If you were already in receipt of ESA prior to becoming a student, you may still be able to continue your claim.

If you are a part-time student, you may be entitled to some benefits if you meet the qualifying conditions.

In the last few years, the government has been introducing a new inclusive benefit called Universal Credit (UC) that replaces six existing benefits:  JSA, ESA, IS, HB, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. 

If you are claiming another benefit, you should continue to do so.

If you think you may be entitled to any Welfare Benefits or have a problem with your existing benefits, contact the SU Advice Centre.

Useful links:

Housing Benefit

If you fall into one of the categories above then you may be able to get help with the cost of your rent.  Housing Benefit is a means tested benefit that is awarded on a sliding scale so you may not get full help with you rent but you may get some.  You must apply directly to your Local Authority for help with the cost of your rent, if you live within Plymouth City Council then they have an online application process

Whichever Local Authority you live in you will only every receive help with the cost of your rent up to the Local Housing Allowance, you will be responsible for the cost any rent over that amount.  Find out your Local Housing Allowance

With all of the changes that are happening with Student Finance England and NHS Bursary’s, we have seen quite a few students who have been incorrectly assessed for their Housing Benefit.  If you do not think your assessment has been carried out correctly, or you would like us to check it, then please make an appointment and bring any relevant paperwork with you. 

Universal Credit

This benefit is in time due to encompass most of the benefits that people of working age can claim.  Details of the roll out for Universal Credit can be found here

Devon and Cornwall are now full service areas for Universal Credit, this means that if you have a change of circumstances that triggers a new claim, you will be automatically moved on to Universal Credit.

Universal Credit treats student income very differently from previous legacy benefits such as Housing Benefit, and it can leave students particularly significantly worse off.  If you have a change of circumstances then please contact the Advice Centre to find out what the consequences of your move to Universal Credit will be.

Check the most recently updated information for students

Council Tax

Council Tax is a property-based tax paid to the local authority where the accommodation is located, and all full-time students are exempt from paying it. However, you must make sure that your local authority knows you are exempt, otherwise they will charge you and non-payment will lead to prosecution! If there is anyone living in the property who is liable for Council Tax, it will be their responsibility to pay any council tax the local authority asks them to pay.

Students on a full time course are exempt from paying Council Tax this includes students who are repeating, and deferred, so if you have received a Council Tax bill then make an appointment, please bring any paperwork that you have received with you.

If there are non-students in your household then they may be able to claim Council Tax Support to assist with the bill.  Each Local Authority can set their own rules for who can apply for Council Tax Support.  Details of the scheme and how to apply for Plymouth City Council can be found here.

Child Tax Credits

If you have children and an income of less than £35,000, (depending on the amount of children you have) then you could be receiving Child Tax Credits.  The income you receive from Student Finance England, with the exception of Adult Dependant Grant, does not count as income for the purpose of claiming Tax Credits.  However, failure to ensure the income figures you provide are accurate may result in an overpayment.  At the moment if your income (or joint income) increases by more than £2500 then you must inform HMRC of this change.

Working Tax Credits:

Students are not exempt from claiming Working Tax Credits, however, you must still meet the eligibility criteria surrounding, your age, the number of hours you work and the duration of your employment.  More details can be found here.

Students with disabilities

Generally in order to claim Housing Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit whilst a student you must first be in receipt of either Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payments (PIP).  PIP replaced DLA a few year ago so any new applications would be for PIP.  PIP is awarded based on the need of the individual, it is not means tested and it will not affect your Student Finance.  Details of who is eligible for PIP and how to apply can be found here.

PIP can be difficult to claim and we would encourage anyone completing the application process to get in touch with a Disability Rights group for assistance.  In Plymouth you can contact the Disability Information and Advice Centre (DIAC) 

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

There are two different types of ESA, one is based on your National Insurance contributions in the last year and the other is means tested. ESA is claimed when you have a limited capability to work, and is confirmed by a medical assessment.   Details of the eligibility criteria and how to apply can be found here.

As a student, in addition to meeting the eligibility criteria for this benefit, you must also be in receipt of one of the following benefits, Disability Living Allowance (DLA); Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Armed Forces Independence Payment.


Income Support

Lone parents with children under the age of 5 used to be able to claim Income Support over the summer vacation period.  Under the new system of Universal Credit you will no longer be able to claim Income Support for this period, instead you would trigger a move to Universal Credit.  This could leave you significantly worse off during term time and we would encourage you to contact us prior to the summer vacation.


Benefit Checks

If you would like advice on your benefit entitlement or you want to know how your Student Finance will affect the benefits you already receive, then please contact the Advice Centre for a full benefits check.


Last updated: November 2019