With the summer vacation approaching - here are some key welfare benefit points for students to note:
Full time student who can claim Universal Credit – summer vacation
Student income is taken into account for UC over the academic year but not the summer vacation. This is because student finance is not intended to cover the summer vacation period.
For those students who are eligible to claim Universal Credit (most are not) whose term time income is too high to receive an award of UC, this may present a window of opportunity.
Student income (except for certain types that are disregarded) is counted as unearned income for UC from the start of the Monthly Assessment Period (MAP) in which the course / academic year starts, up to the MAP before the MAP in which the summer vacation starts (or course finishes).
So, there could be two, three or four Monthly Assessment Periods in the summer when no student income is taken into account and their chances of being awarded UC are higher.
For example, Jade is a full-time student with two children. She is on the second year of a three-year degree course. The current academic year ends on Friday 23rd June. Her third and final academic year starts on 27th September.
Jade made a claim for UC last October but this was refused – her income was too high. But she could make a new claim before her academic year has finished and receive an award.
If she claimed UC on 25th May her MAPs would run from 25th of one month to the 24th of the next, and for the MAPs 25th May – 24th June, 25th June – 24th July, 25th July – 24th August and 25th August – 24th September, no student income is counted (her student income is spread over the other eight MAPs of a 12 month period).
Students on Child Tax Credit – summer vacation
During the summer vacation some students with children will see a drop in their income as this is a period not normally covered by student finance. If they feel that Child Tax Credit and Child Benefit is not enough to manage on, they might be tempted claim Universal Credit instead.
But they might end up worse off over the whole year if they do this. Most student income is disregarded for Tax Credits, whereas most student income is counted for Universal Credit.
This is a complex area to advise on and every case is different. Some students will have rent to pay – if they receive some Housing Benefit during term time, this could increase during the summer. If they are not entitled to HB during term time, they cannot make a new claim for HB during the summer (except if they are in ‘temporary’ or ‘specified’ accommodation). Also, any comparison with UC would need to take account of the end of the £20 pw Coronavirus uplift from October.
So, claimants should get a benefit check before claiming UC – as it is not possible to return to Tax Credits once a UC claim has been made.
What about A level (or equivalent) students who are finishing their courses? When do their parents / carers stop getting benefits for them?
Find out more in our Hot Topic!