Most people who are subject to immigration control, including anyone who has immigration permission to stay in the UK as a student (a “student/Tier 4 visa”), will have a prohibition on claiming public funds, which includes most welfare benefits, and they can ignore this whole section.
Changes to the Welfare Benefit system
There are major changes to the benefit system affecting most claimants over the next few years. Existing claimants will be migrated onto the new benefits gradually over the next few years.
The introduction of Universal Credit (UC)
UC is gradually being introduced in stages (if you live in an area which has introduced UC you will only be able to claim this and not any of the legacy benefits). UC is a new single monthly payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income. It is replacing Income Support, income related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Job Seekers Allowance, Housing Benefit, and Child and Working Tax Credits.
You will make one online claim for your living costs, housing and dependent children. It will be made up of a standard allowance plus other 'elements' - for example for children, childcare, housing and caring. There will also be an element for those with limited capability for work. The amount you could get will depend on your own circumstances. If you qualify, your monthly payment will cover everyone in your family who qualifies for support. 'Family' could mean you as a single person for example, or you might also be claiming for a partner and/or children. There are more details on the gov.uk website.
Can I claim UC or Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) if I can’t find work?
UC or JSA are the benefits for people who are available for work and actively seeking work. Most full-time students cannot claim UC or JSA on this basis because they are not seen as available for work, even during vacations and even if they are looking for work. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, which are explained below.
For student couples who are both full-time students and responsible for a child, one of you can claim UC or JSA in the summer vacation if you are available for and actively seeking work, and you can claim the housing costs element of UC or Housing Benefit all year round. You will be paid at the couple rate of UC or JSA. Student Finance will not be included in your benefit assessment for 10 weeks, broadly July and August, so if you and your partner do not have any other income, you will normally be eligible to claim maximum JSA and Housing Benefit during those 10 weeks. The calculation for UC is slightly different but you should qualify for some support. Please see our webpages for students with children for more information and contact a Welfare Adviser at the QMUL Advice and Counselling Service if you need further information.
You can claim UC or JSA from the start of the summer vacation, but for JSA undergraduate Student Finance will still be included as income in the benefit assessment until the last week of June. This might mean that you do not actually receive any JSA until then. The UC income calculation is slightly different.
Students who are interrupting or resitting out of attendance
If you are interrupting your studies or re-sitting out of attendance you would not normally be able to claim benefits such as UC or JSA, although this may be possible if you are re-sitting your final year out of attendance having completed all teaching requirements. Also, if you are interrupting because you are ill or you need to care for someone else, you may be able to claim UC or JSA for a limited period after you recover or your caring responsibilities end, and you are waiting to return to your programme. Contact a Welfare Adviser at the QMUL Advice and Counselling Service if this applies to you as it is helpful to get a letter to go with your application to ensure that it is processed correctly.
Students who have completed or withdrawn from their studies
If you withdraw from your programme completely you would no longer be a student and you would be able to claim benefits under the standard benefit rules. For more information about this see the Advice and Counselling advice guide: ‘Resitting, interrupting or leaving your course: a guide for home and EU students’
Lone parents and students will a disability or long-term ill health
Some full-time students can claim UC or other welfare benefits, even though they are studying, for example some lone parents and students with a disability or ongoing ill-health. If these students choose to work, they are free to do so, but their earnings may reduce the amount of benefit they get. For more information, see the Advice and Counselling Service webpages:
- Students with Children
Earnings and Benefits
If you are someone who is eligible to claim welfare benefits, your earnings may reduce your benefit entitlements. There may also be limitations about the number of hours you can work before your benefits are affected.
You must tell the office that pays your benefit about your income.
If you would like more information about how any earnings might affect your benefits, contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service.
Tax credits help people who are on a low income, they are being replaced by UC.
You do not need to have children to claim certain tax credits. There are two types of tax credits: Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. You may be eligible for one or both. They are income assessed and paid by HM Revenue and Customs. You can get a claim form from the Tax Credits helpline: 0845 300 3900.. For information about current eligibility for tax credits and how to claim, see the gov.uk website.
Note: Some EEA nationals can claim tax credits if they satisfy certain residence conditions. Contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service if you need more information.
Law, regulations and policies can change quickly. The information on our website is given in good faith and has been carefully checked but QMUL cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. QMUL is not responsible for the content or reliability of the linked websites which are provided for further information.