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Income Support for Students with Disabilities

Who can claim Income Support?
How is Income Support calculated?
Additional information
Useful publications
Useful Organisations


Income Support is a welfare benefit providing a basic income to people who do not have enough money to meet their needs. It can be paid on it’s own or as a top-up to other benefits or earnings to bring your income up to the basic level the law says you need. It is means-tested, which means that the amount you get depends on how much money you have coming in. Usually, full-time students cannot claim Income support. However, disabled students may be eligible if they fulfil certain conditions.

If you are studying and claiming income support, there are several key points to consider. These are outlined in more detail throughout this sheet.

 If you are studying a higher education course and are eligible for a student loan, the loan will be taken into account when calculating your income.
 If you are eligible for the student loan, the maximum amount of the loan is taken into account when assessing your income even if you do not take out the loan.
 Any income you receive from a grant or bursary that is intended to cover daily living expenses is taken into account when assessing your income. Those parts of the grant which are intended for study-related costs (such as fees) are ignored when calculating income.

This information sheet explains if you can claim Income Support and how Income Support is calculated. There are examples to help you work out your Income Support, but please note that you may need help to work out how much you will get. Your student union welfare adviser or local citizen’s advice bureau should be able to do this for you.

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Who can claim Income Support?

There are some basic conditions that you need to fulfil, as well as some conditions specific to study.

Basic conditions

 you are over 16
 you are not required to sign on as available for work (
see information sheet studying and claiming benefits as ‘incapable of work )
 your are not working more than 16 hours per week
 your partner (if you have one) is not working over 24 hours a week
 you do not have capital exceeding 8000 (capital is savings accounts in banks or building societies or in cash or redundancy payments)
 you have an income that the state says is less than the minimum to live on. This minimum is called the applicable amount


Your entitlement to income support will depend on whether you are studying full or part-time. If you do not know whether you are classed as full-time or part-time for the purpose of Income Support, contact the Benefits Agency or Skill. It is important to notify the Benefits Agency when you start studying as this is a ‘change in circumstances’.

Studying full-time – under 19

Once you turn 16, you can claim Income Support in your own right even if you still live with your parents. However, you need to find out whether you are doing an advanced or a non-advanced course to determine whether you are eligible to claim Income Support.

Non-advanced courses include GCSEs, A-levels, NVQ (level 3 or below), an ordinary national diploma, Scottish Certificate of Higher Education, Scottish Certificate of Sixth Year Studies,
Scottish Vocational Education Council national certificate or a Business and Technician Education Council diploma.

Advanced courses include a university degree, NVQ (level 4), higher national diploma, a diploma of higher education, a teaching qualification, Scottish Vocational Education Council higher national diploma or a Business and Technician Education Council higher national diploma.

If you are studying a full-time non-advanced course you need to fulfil the basic conditions and you need to either:
 be so severely disabled that you are unlikely to get a job in the next 12 months; or
 be the parent of a child for whom you are treated as responsible; or
 be an orphan, and have no one acting as your parent; or
 you have to live away from your parents and any person acting in their place because either you are estranged from them or you are in physical or moral danger or there is a serious risk to your physical or mental health; or

 be living apart from your parents and any person acting in their place and they are unable to support you as they are in prison or they are unable to come to Britain because they do have leave to enter under UK immigration laws or they are chronically sick or disabled or are mentally or physically disabled; or
 you are a refugee learning English; or
 you have left care and are living independently.

If you are under 19 and studying a full-time advanced course then you will come under the same rules as someone over 19 and studying

Studying full-time – over 19

If you are a disabled student, aged 19 or over and studying an advanced or a non-advanced course, you can claim Income Support if you fulfil the basic conditions and one of the following:

 you qualify for the disability premium (see page 4)
 you qualify for the severe disability premium (see page 4)
 you have been incapable of work for 28 weeks (two or more periods of incapacity can be linked together if they are no more than 8 weeks apart)
 you qualify for a disabled students’ allowance because you are deaf (see Skill Information
Applying for the Disabled Students’ Allowances )

You can also claim if:
 you are a lone parent (or foster parent) of a child under 16 or
 you are one of a couple and you are both full-time students and either or both of you is responsible for a child or a young person and it is the summer vacation or
 you are a refugee learning English.

Studying part-time

If you fulfil the basic conditions then you can claim Income Support.

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How is Income Support calculated?

Calculating your Income Support can be complicated. Your local citizen’s advice bureau or the welfare adviser in the student union, if you have one, can help you work out the amount you should get. It may help them if you take this information sheet with you.

Income Support is calculated using the following formula:

Applicable amount – Weekly Income = Income Support

Applicable amount

This is the weekly amount of money the government expects you to live on. This amount is calculated by adding together personal allowances, premiums, and certain types of housing costs. The amounts for premiums and personal allowances can be found out from the Benefits Agency.

Personal allowances reflect estimates for day to day living costs. They depend on your age, marital status and whether you are responsible for any children.

Premiums reflect additional costs, incurred due to disability, age or the cost of children. You may qualify for the disability premium if you:
 receive any part of Disability Living Allowance; or
 Incapacity Benefit at the long-term rate; or
 Severe Disablement Allowance; or
 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
 receive Disabled Person’s Tax Credit; or
 are registered blind.

In addition to the disability premium you may qualify for the severe disability premium. The main ways to qualify for this premium are:
 if you receive Attendance Allowance, or
 you receive the middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance and have no non-dependant aged 18 or over and no one gets invalid care allowance for looking after you.

Housing costs that Income Support can contribute to are mortgage interest payments, interest on loans for repairs and improvements to the home, ground rent payable as a condition of a long lease, and some service charges. Housing costs do not include daily living expenses such as water or fuel charges (see Information Sheet on
Housing Benefit ).

If you are a member of a couple and have to study away from home, you may be able to receive help with the cost of your term time home at the same time as receiving assistance with the mortgage on your normal home. However, if you are single, you can only claim assistance with housing costs on one home (either your term time or normal home). If this applies to you, seek professional advice from a welfare rights adviser at your local citizen’s advice bureau.

Weekly income

Any income you receive may affect how much Income Support you can get. Income includes certain benefits, grants, student loans, career development loans, charitable payments, access funds, and savings in cash or in bank or building society accounts. Parts of your income may be taken into account in full, ignored partly or ignored completely when calculating your weekly income.


Benefits are usually taken into account in full as weekly income. Benefits which are fully counted include hild Benefit
 Incapacity Benefit
 Maintenance Payments
 Pensions
 Statutory Sick Pay
 Statutory Maternity Pay.

However, some benefits are completely ignored when calculating your weekly income. These include
 Disability Living Allowance
 Housing Benefit
 Council Tax Benefit
 Attendance Allowance
 Social Fund Payments.

A note about incapacity benefits:

If you receive a benefit because you are incapable of work eg Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance or Income Support with Disability Premium, it is important to note that starting a course may prompt the Benefits Agency to review your claim. Information sheet: Studying and claiming benefits as ‘incapable of work’ gives further advice about this.

Student loan

Most full-time undergraduate students will be receiving a student loan or be entitled to apply for one. This loan will affect the amount of Income support you receive. If you are eligible for this loan, it will be taken into account whether or not you actually take out the loan.

To calculate the loan income, the academic year is divided into four irregular quarters:
 1 Jan-31 March (winter quarter)
 1 April-30 June (spring quarter)
 1 July-31 August (1 July-31 July in Scotland) (summer quarter)
 1 September-31 December (1 August-31 December in Scotland) (autumn quarter).

Your loan will be divided over three quarters. It is not taken into account for the quarter that includes your long vacation. For most students this will be the summer quarter. When calculating your Income Support, 10 a week of your loan will be disregarded (not counted) for the three quarters when you will be studying. In addition, 311 of the loan will be disregarded for books and equipment and 255 disregarded for travel costs when assessing your income (for the academic year 2000/01). If the loan includes a specified sum for travel this is disregarded in addition to the fixed amount.

If you leave your course early, the loan will still be divided over the academic year. However, there will be no disregards for the remaining benefit weeks covered by the loan period.

Calculating the income from the loan depends on what stage of the course you are studying.
 In your first year the loan income will be ignored until the first day of the first term.
 For continuing students (ie between first and final year), the loan is taken into account from the first day of the first benefit week in September or from the first day of the first benefit week of the autumn term (whichever is the earlier). The period ends on the last day of the benefit week in June. For most people, this means the loan is taken into account over 44 weeks.
 If you are in your final year, the loan is divided by the number of weeks from the start to the end of your course for that year.
These rules apply to ‘new’ and ‘existing’ students.

Grant income

If you started your course before 1998, you are known as an ‘existing student’ and you may be receiving a grant. This will be taken into account when assessing your level of Income Support. If you are only receiving a grant and are not entitled to take out a student loan, certain parts of the grant are disregarded when calculating income:
 If the grant includes a specific amount for books and equipment, that amount will be disregarded. If no amount is specified, 311 is disregarded for books and equipment
 255 is disregarded for travel costs. If the grant includes a specified amount for travel, this amount is ignored in addition to the 255
 allowances for tuition and examination fees
 Disabled Students’ Allowances
 any allowance to meet the cost of attending a residential course away from normal student accommodation during term time
 any allowances for the cost of a home (away from college) if the rent is not met by Housing Benefit.
 any amount for a partner or child abroad.

A mandatory grant is intended to provide income from the start of the autumn term until the end of the summer term (the academic year). It does not cover the long vacation over summer. For benefit purposes the grant is divided by the number of weeks it is intended to cover to calculate your income. If you are studying a sandwich course, the grant is divided over the period of study excluding the periods on placement or work experience.

Your grant may include an allowance for a partner or children (dependants) or because you are a lone parent or a mature student. These allowances are intended to cover the full calendar year. Therefore, they are counted over 52 or 53 weeks (benefits periods sometimes run to 53 weeks) when calculating your income.

If you leave your course early or are dismissed before the course finishes, the grant is taken into account until the grant is repaid or the academic term or vacation in which you ceased your course ends or the end of the period covered by the last instalment of the grant (whichever is the earliest).

Student loan and grant

If you receive a grant as well as a loan (or are entitled to the loan but choose not to take one out) then you will have 311 of the loan disregarded for books and equipment and 255 of the loan disregarded for travel costs.

Dependants’ allowance

If you receive an allowance because you have dependants, this income is taken into account for the same period as the loan.

Career development loans

The part of the career development loan which is intended to cover fees or examination costs is disregarded when calculating income. Any amount specifically intended to meet your living expenses such as food, fuel, clothing or housing costs is taken into account. These parts of the loan are divided over the number of weeks of study for which the loan was paid.

Voluntary or charitable payments

These types of payments may be treated as weekly income, capital, or disregarded completely. This is partly dependent on whether the payment is made irregularly (for example a one-off payment) or regularly.

If a payment is made irregularly it is treated as capital and is unlikely to affect your claim unless your capital exceeds 8000. If the payments are made regularly they can be completely ignored if they are intended for anything except food, ordinary clothing or footwear, household fuel, council tax, water rates and housing costs met by Income Support. If the payments are not ignored completely then 20 a week is disregarded. Please note that this disregard may overlap with other disregards, most notably the 10 disregard for a student loan. In these cases a combined disregard of 20 is allowed.

Access Fund payments

Access Funds include the access bursary, mature students’ bursary and hardship fund payments. These funds are paid to students who are experiencing financial hardship. The rules concerning these payments differ according to how the funds are to be used.
 If the payment is intended to cover a one-off cost (eg for fuel, debts, books or special equipment) it will count as capital and will not affect your claim unless your capital exceeds 8000. If the payment is for basic living costs (eg food) it will count as capital but this will be ignored for 52 weeks. This capital will only affect your claim if the funds have not been used by the end of the 52 week period.
 If the payment is to be used on an on-going basis and is paid as a lump sum or in instalments, it will count as income. This income will be disregarded in full unless the payment is for ordinary living costs (eg food). In this case 20 a week will be disregarded.
 If the payments are intended to bridge the gap before starting a course or receiving the student loan, they will be ignored completely even if they are intended to cover ordinary living costs.

Hardship Loans

Any payments received from a hardship loan are completely disregarded when assessing income.

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The following calculations are intended to be used as a guide only

We advise you make your own calculations or seek professional advice from one of the organisations listed below to establish the amount of Income Support you are likely to receive.

Example 1

Curtis is a single male aged 24, receiving Disability Living Allowance lower rate mobility component. He is going to live in a university hall of residence in London and is receiving the maximum loan of 4,590. He has no other money.

Using the formula, the first step is to work out his applicable amount.

Personal allowances 41.35 (single, 18-24)
Premium 22.25 (single)
Housing costs 0 (not eligible)
Applicable amount 63.60

The next step is to work out his weekly income.

Income 4,590 (student loan)
disregard for books
and equipment 311
disregard for travel
costs 255

= 4,024

44 weeks 91.45
10 disregard 81.45

Income Support =Applicable amount – weekly income
Income Support = 63.60 – 81.45
Income Support = -17.85

No Income Support is payable to Curtis, as his weekly income is greater than his applicable allowance (the amount he is expected to live on). However, because he is a new student, during the vacation he would need to reapply for Income Support. His student loan would not be taken into account so his income would be 0. Recalculating his Income Support means that Curtis would receive the maximum Income Support of 63.60 during the vacation quarter. Curtis should also receive the maximum help with his NHS prescriptions.

Example 2

Irani is a single woman aged 36, receiving Disability Living Allowance middle rate care component. She is going to live in a university hall of residence in Birmingham and study full-time. She is receiving the maximum loan of 3,725. She has no other money.

Using the formula, the first step is to work out her applicable amount.

Personal allowances 52.20 (single, 25+)
Premium 22.25 (single)
Premium 40.20 (severe disability)
Housing costs 0 (not eligible)
Applicable amount 114.65

The next step is to work out her weekly income.

Income 3,725 (student loan)
disregard for books
and equipment 311
disregard for travel
costs 255

= 3,159

44 weeks 71.80
10 disregard 61.80

Income Support = Applicable amount – Weekly Income
Income Support = 114.65 – 61.80
Income Support = 52.85

Therefore, Income Support is payable at the rate of 52.85 per week. Irani should also receive the maximum help with her NHS prescriptions. During the vacation her student loan would not be taken into account, so her income would be 0. Recalculating her Income Support means that Irani would receive Income Support of 114.65 during the vacation quarter. Irani should continue to receive the maximum help with his NHS prescriptions.

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Additional information

Making a claim

To make a claim you must fill out an A1 form (or an SP1 form if you are a pensioner) or fill in the tear-off slip in leaflet IS1 which you can pick up from your local post office.

You can obtain the form if you write or telephone your local Benefits Agency office. It is important that this is done as soon as possible so that if you receive Income Support it can be backdated to the date you first asked for the form. Complete the form and return it within one month, but remember to keep a copy for future records.

If you are not eligible for Income Support during the academic quarters, but would be during the vacation quarter, then check with your local benefits office that your Income Support is being reassessed during this time.

Benefit Agency leaflets

IS20 a guide to Income Support
IS8 housing costs - help with housing costs
FB23 young people’s guide to social security
GL17 help with your council tax
HB5 a guide to non-contributory benefits for disabled people
JSA8 JSA and IS for people aged 16 or 17
JSAL4 part-time education and training
MG1 a guide to benefits
N1246 how to appeal
RR2 a guide to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit
WWB5 extra help with rent and council tax

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Useful publications

Welfare Benefits Handbook
Published by the Child Poverty Action Group
94 White Lion Street, London N1 9PF
Tel: 0207 837 7979 Fax: 0207 837 6414

Disability Rights Handbook
Published by Disability Alliance
Ist Floor East, Universal House, 88-94 Wentworth Street, London, E1 7SA.
Tel/Min: 020 7247 8776 Fax: 020 7247 8765

Studying on the dole
Published by Unemployment Unit
First Floor, 87/89 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TP
Tel: 0207 582 7275 Fax: 0207 582 7721

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Useful Organisations

Benefits Enquiry Line

Tel: (England, Scotland, Wales): 0800 882 200
Textphone: 0800 243 355
Tel: (Northern Ireland): 0800 220 674
Textphone: 0800 243 787

Citizen's Advice Bureau
A local CAB can give information and advice on many issues. You can go to them with any query and they should pass you on to someone who can help if they can’t help you themselves. Give advice about financial matters including social security benefits, and advice about local services. You can look in the telephone book to find out what is available locally.

Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities

4th Floor
Chapter House
18-20 Crucifix Lane
London SE1 3JW
Tel/Minicom: 020 7450 0620
Fax: 020 7450 0650
Information Service Tel: 0800 328 5050
Minicom: 0800 068 2422 (open Monday to Thursday 1.30pm-4.30pm)

Skill has an Information Service and produces information
booklets and publications covering further education, higher
education, training and careers for people with disabilities.

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