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Benefits are provided by the government to help support peoples’ income. People can be entitled to benefits for a wide range of reasons, whether it’s due to being part of a low income household, being unable to work for any reason, being temporarily unemployed, or being a parent or carer.

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Could you be eligible for benefits while studying?

Although not all students are entitled to claim benefits while they study, some may be able to and it’s a good idea to have an eligibility check if, after reading the information below, you think you might have an entitlement to claim. 

What should I know about benefits?

The benefits entitlement rules are complex and regulated by the Department of Work and Pensions or Social Security Scotland depending on the benefit in question. The first thing to note is that you must have recourse to public funds in order to be able to claim; this means that international students with a tier 4 or student visa cannot claim. Students who have indefinite leave to remain in the UK or have refugee status may be able to claim if they meet further eligibility criteria. Residency rules around benefits can become very complicated, so you may wish to seek further advice from us on eligibility.

For the most part, students who are registered as full-time by their university (even if they are, for example, taking a period out of study without withdrawing) do not have an entitlement to claim, but there are limited circumstances in which you might be able to claim as a full-time student in higher education (benefits for students in further education or studying part-time can vary, so it’s worth speaking to an adviser directly if you are not a full-time student in higher education):

  • If you are a parent (of a child under 16 or aged 16-19 in non-advanced education) or are a student with a non-student partner that you live with;

  • If you are a lone parent;

  • If you have a disability or long-term health condition and have been assessed as having limited capability for work;

  • If you are part of a couple in which you are both students and have a child.

The benefits you may be able to make a claim for will depend on your circumstances, but the most common ones that students can make a claim for while studying if they are part of one of those categories are Universal Credit, Child Benefit, Personal Independence Payment/Adult Disability Payment. 

Benefits can be broadly categorised into two groups: those that are means tested (i.e. where the amount you can claim is affected by how much income and capital you have, such as Universal Credit) and those that are non-means tested (i.e. you can claim regardless of how much income you have, such as Child Benefits or Personal Independence Payment). Means tested benefits will take into account how much student funding you receive and any other income such as wages. 

You remain classed as a full-time student even during holidays, including the summer break between academic years, and you cannot make a claim just for the summer if you don’t normally have entitlement to claim while you study. In your final year of study, you can submit a claim for benefits if you are eligible the day after the final day of your course. You can find out the date your course ends on Pegasus. 

What is the process for accessing benefits?

The first thing we would recommend you do is speak to us about your eligibility. Benefits are complicated and can be even more complicated for students; we often see cases where students have sought advice on entitlement from agencies who advised that they can claim, but they actually can’t because of their student status. Situations like this result in overpayments which can be claimed back from you if it’s determined you were incorrectly claiming. So, start by reading up on entitlement (Turn 2 Us and CPAG have great resources on student benefits claims) and get in touch with us.

We need to know a bit about you and your life to help determine 1) if you have an eligibility to claim for anything and 2) how much you might be able to claim. The sort of questions we’ll ask is about your living circumstances, if you have an illness or disability, if you are a parent, your income, and the sort of property that you live in. We can only accurately advise you with this information and we will not provide speculative advice without gathering this. 

Once you know your entitlement, you will need to make a claim. The process for this depends on what you are claiming for. Most benefits take time to be assessed and processed, but there are options to support your income in the meantime. 

You will receive a formal notice of the outcome of your claim which, if successful, will detail how much you will be paid and when. 

How can the Advice Hub help me with benefits?

We know how tricky it is to get your head around all the rules and regulations, so let us help you out with it. Our advisers can assess your eligibility to claim, help make sure that you’re claiming everything you’re entitled do, calculate the amount you should be getting paid through benefits, and we can help you with applying, including attending medical assessments with you for support. We can support with processes such as mandatory reconsiderations and, in some circumstances, with tribunal cases.

Useful Resources



Student Information Scotland – Benefits

CPAG Student Benefits Factsheets

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