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Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit for Disabled Students

Introduction
Who can claim Housing Benefit?
How to make a claim
The type of accommodation
How Housing Benefit is calculated
Council Tax Benefit
Useful resources
Useful contacts


Introduction

Housing Benefit helps people on a low income to pay their rent. Housing Benefit cannot help with mortgage payments or certain service charges such as fuel or water. It is a means-tested benefit so the amount you get depends on how much other money you have coming in. You may think that you have too much income to claim Housing Benefit. However, some income is not taken into account when assessing your claim. The calculation guide on page 5 will help you to work out how much Housing Benefit you can claim. Housing Benefit is paid by local authorities.

Council Tax Benefit assists people on a low income to pay their council tax. It is a means-tested benefit and is also paid by local authorities.

If you are studying and claiming Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit, there are several key points to consider. These are outlined in more detail throughout this sheet.

 You cannot claim Housing Benefit during the period of study if you rent your accommodation from your institution and the institution owns the accommodation (eg Halls of residence).
 If you are eligible for the student loan, the loan is taken into account when assessing your income even if you do not take out the loan. However, parts of the loan are ignored because they are meant for books and travel and not for rent.
 Housing Benefit may not cover all of your rent. The amount of Housing Benefit you receive depends on the type of accommodation you rent and your income level.
 If you receive Income Support or Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, you are entitled to maximum Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

This information sheet tells you if you can claim these benefits and how they are calculated. It should be read along with Benefits Agency leaflets which are listed at the end of the sheet. There are examples to help you work out your Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit, but please note that you may need help to work out how much you will get. Your student union welfare adviser or local citizen advice bureau should be able to do this for you.


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Who can claim Housing Benefit?

There are some basic conditions that you need to fulfil as well as some conditions specific to students:


Basic conditions

 your income is low enough
 you do not have more than 16,000 in savings and capital
 you normally occupy the accommodation as your home, or you are only temporarily absent from it
 you are treated as being liable for rent and the payments you make are eligible for Housing Benefit
 you are a UK resident and you are not subject to immigration control


Studying full-time

Most full-time students cannot claim Housing Benefit. The main ways you can claim whilst studying are:

 you are receiving Income Support or Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance; or
 you meet the eligibility criteria for the disability premium (see disability premiums below) or would do if you were not disqualified from Incapacity Benefit; or
 you are eligible for the severe disability premium (see disability premiums below); or
 you have been incapable of work for 28 weeks; or
 you qualify for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) because you are deaf (see information sheet 3 Applying for the Disabled Students’ Allowances); or
 you are under 19 and not on a course of higher education (degrees, teacher training courses, Higher National Diplomas, Higher National Certificates, post-graduate courses); or
 you are waiting to go back to your course having taken approved time out because of illness or caring responsibilities and you are not covered by the student loan until you go back; or
 you and your partner are both full-time students and one of you or both of you are ‘responsible’ for a child or young person; or
 you are a lone parent; or
 you are a lone foster parent where the child has been placed with you by a local authority or voluntary agency within a formal agreement; or
 you are a pensioner and meet the conditions for the pensioner premium.


Disability Premiums

Premiums reflect additional daily costs. 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.


Studying part-time

If you fulfil the basic conditions then you can claim Housing Benefit.


Trainee on a government training scheme

If you are a trainee on a government training scheme, you are not classed as a student. If you fulfil the basic conditions then you can claim Housing Benefit.


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How to make a claim

If you receive Income Support or Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, you should already have been given a Housing Benefit application form. If not, contact the Benefits Agency. Return your completed form either to your Benefits Agency office or to the local authority.

If you do not receive Income Support or Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, you should claim Housing Benefit directly from your local authority. Contact your local authority, ask for a form and return your completed form to the address on the form.

It is important to send your claim immediately so that your Housing Benefit payments can start as soon as possible. Make a note of the day you sent the form and keep a copy of the application form. If you need to send any evidence (eg rent details, other benefits, wage slips), make sure you keep copies of this information. Also make sure you complete the form as fully as possible. If you are having difficulties then it is a good idea to contact your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, the welfare adviser in the student union or a local disability organisation.

You may be able to get Housing Benefit backdated. If you ask for it to be backdated you need to show that there has been a ‘continuous good cause’. The authority will assess this ‘good cause’ on an individual basis.


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The type of accommodation

Your eligibility for Housing Benefit and the amount you will receive depends on the type of accommodation you are renting.

Accommodation during term-time
If you rent your accommodation from your university or college and they own the accommodation, you cannot claim Housing Benefit for that accommodation. This often means that if you are living in halls of residence you are not eligible for Housing Benefit. Check with your institution to find out who owns the accommodation. The institution may rent the accommodation from another company. In this case you may be eligible to claim Housing Benefit.

You can claim Housing Benefit if you rent accommodation from your university or college outside your period of study, for example during the summer vacation.

If the main reason you occupy your home is to be able to attend your course, you cannot get Housing Benefit when you are away from that home outside your period of study. If you are away from home because you are in hospital, you will receive Housing Benefit during your absence.

Claiming Housing Benefit on accommodation which is not your main home

You can claim Housing Benefit on accommodation which is not your main home. This is when you have two homes and you make payments for only one of the homes (including mortgage payments). You will be treated as occupying the home which you pay for if you are a student who is eligible for Housing Benefit or you are on a training course and you live in one home during study periods and another during vacations.


Claiming Housing Benefit on two homes

You can usually only get Housing Benefit on one home. There are a few ways in which you may get Housing Benefit on two homes. The two main ways for this to happen are:

 either you or your partner is a student who can claim housing benefit or a trainee on a government course and it is necessary for you to live apart and it is reasonable for you to receive Housing Benefit on both properties
 you have moved into a new home and you could not reasonably avoid paying rent on your old home.


If you live with other people

If you are in a couple and both of you are liable to pay rent then only one of you can claim Housing Benefit.

If you are in a group of people living together and you all pay rent together and all or some of you are jointly liable for the rent, then you can all make separate claims for Housing Benefit. This will be based on your share of the rent and other factors considered by the local authority.

Claiming Housing Benefit when you are temporarily absent from your home

You can also claim Housing Benefit for a temporary period when you are not living in your home.
The main reasons for this to happen include:
 you are temporarily absent from your home for up to 13 weeks and you are unlikely to be absent for any longer than this and you have not rented the place out
 you are temporarily absent for up to 52 weeks and you are unlikely to be absent for any longer than this and you have not rented the place out and you are in hospital or you are undertaking a government training course in the UK or you are a student who is eligible for Housing Benefit.

There are other circumstances where you could claim Housing Benefit when you are temporarily absent. Check with the Benefits Agency if you think you may be able to claim for another reason.


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How Housing Benefit is calculated

Calculating your Housing Benefit can be complicated. Contact your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or the welfare adviser in the student union, if you have one, to help you work out the amount you should get. It may help them if you take this information sheet with you. The calculation is worked out by following these steps. Explanations of each step are below:

1. Work out applicable amount

Personal allowance
+ Dependants allowance
+ Premiums
= Applicable amount

2. Work out Income

Benefits and other income
+ Earnings from paid employment
- Earnings disregard from paid employment
- The amount of student rent deduction (if applicable) applied in step 3
= Total income

3. Work out maximum Housing Benefit

Rent charged
- Student rent deduction (if applicable)
- Ineligible charges
- Non dependent Deductions
= Maximum Housing Benefit

4. Calculate excess income

Total Income
+ Applicable amount
= Excess income

5. Calculate 65% of excess income

Excess Income
X 0.65
= 65% of excess income

6. Calculate Housing Benefit

Maximum Housing Benefit
- 65% of excess income
= Housing Benefit per week

If you receive Income Support or Income-Based Job Seekers Allowance, you are automatically eligible for Housing Benefit so you only need to work out step 3 (above) to work out your maximum Housing Benefit.

If you do not receive Income Support or Income Based Job Seekers Allowance you need to work out all six steps of the calculation.


Working out each step of the calculation

Step 1 – Work out your applicable amount

This is the weekly amount the government says you need to live on. There are several steps to work out your applicable amount.

a) Find out your personal allowance from the Benefits Agency.

This allowance reflects estimates for day to day living costs and depends on your age, marital status and whether you are responsible for any children.

b) Find out if you receive additional allowances
If you have a child or young person who is under 19 and is a dependent you should get an additional allowance because of your extra day to day living costs.

c) Work out what premiums you receive

You may receive premiums to help with additional day to day living costs. If you have a disability you may get a disability premium or a severe disability premium. You may get other premiums to cover extra living costs depending on whether you have a family, whether you are a pensioner or if you and/or your partner receive Invalid Care Allowance.

d) Add these amounts together

Add these amounts to get your total applicable amount.

Step 2 – work out your income

There are several steps you need to follow to work out your income.

a) Work out which sources of income are to be counted and which are ignored.

The main sources of income that are counted in full are:

 Most Social Security Benefits including Child Benefit, Incapacity Benefit, Statutory Sick Pay, Statutory Maternity Pay and Maintenance Payments

 Working Families’ Tax Credit and Disabled person Tax Credit (although if you work for 30 hours or more per week, 11.25 is not counted)

 Pensions including private pensions

 Capital including income from bank and building society accounts, premium bonds, stocks and shares, savings in cash and lump sum redundancy payments. Any capital under 3,000 will be ignored.

The main sources of income that are completely disregarded (not counted) are:
 Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs)
 Council Tax Benefit
 Disability Living Allowance
 Attendance Allowance
 Social Fund Payments
 Education Maintenance Allowance
 Payments made by non-dependants for living and accommodation expenses

Income which is partly disregarded includes:
 Government Training Allowances
 New Deal Training Allowances
 Student loans. If you are eligible for the student loan, the maximum amount of the loan 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.
These are:
1 Jan-31 March (winter quarter), 1 April-30 June (spring quarter), 1 July-31 August (1 July-31 July in Scotland) (summer quarter) and 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. 10 a week of your loan will be disregarded 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). For more information about calculating the student loan see our information sheet
Income Support for students with disabilities.

 Student Grant. This income is divided over the number of weeks it is intended to cover. 311 is disregarded for books and equipment and 255 for travel. If you leave your course early or are dismissed, the grant is taken into account as income until the date you are asked to repay it. For further information see information sheet 15 Income Support for students with disabilities.

If you do not receive Housing Benefit because your income is too high during the three-quarters of study, it is worthwhile reapplying for Housing Benefit during the long vacation. This is because the student loan will not be taken into account, so your income level may fall and the recalculation may enable you to receive Housing Benefit.

Some income may be taken into account, partly disregarded or completely disregarded. This includes:
 Voluntary or charitable payments. 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 bursary, mature students’ bursary and hardship fund payments) are usually treated as voluntary payments (described above). For further information see information sheet 15 Income Support for students with disabilities.

 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.

b) Work out the income from earnings.

Income from paid employment is taken into account by the following formula:
Gross earnings
- Tax
- National Insurance contributions
- 50% of contributions paid into a private pensions scheme
= Earnings from paid employment

c) Work out disregards

An amount of money is disregarded from the income from paid employment. You may qualify for one of the following disregards:
 25 if you are a lone parent (15 if you receive Income Support)
 15 if you qualify for the disability premium
 10 if you are in a heterosexual couple
 5 if you are a single claimant
(please note from April 2001 the 15 disregards will be increased to 20)

Some income from paid employment can also be disregarded for child care costs up to a maximum of 70 a week for one child or 105 a week for two or more children. In some cases, if you or your partner also receives Working Families’ Tax Credit of Disabled Person’s Tax Credit, your earnings are added together with the credit before the deduction for childcare costs is made.

d) Student rent reduction

If you have a student rent reduction (see Step 3 below), this is also included when calculating your total income.

e) Add amounts together

Add together the amount of your benefits and other income to your earnings from paid employment. Subtract the earnings disregard from paid employment and the amount for the student rent deduction (if applicable) from this figure. The final amount is your total income.

Step 3 – work out your maximum Housing Benefit


There are several steps to follow to work out your maximum Housing Benefit.

a) Work out your eligible rent

Your ‘eligible rent’ is the amount of your rent which is taken into account when calculating your Housing Benefit. This is often not the same as the actual rent you are paying because certain charges are deducted such as fuel and water. If you pay any communal charges such as the heating/lighting of communal areas and communal laundry facilities, these charges may be included as part of your eligible rent. The Housing Benefit payment will also only meet the average rent level for your area. Contact your local council for advice.

b) Student Rent Reduction

Most full-time students are expected to meet some of their accommodation costs. In most cases a standard reduction is made from your weekly eligible rent during your period of study. This is called the student rent reduction. The amount of the deduction depends on where you study. The reduction is 27.75 if you study in London or 19.20 if you are attending a course elsewhere. This reduction does not apply once you have finished your course or during the summer vacation.

The student rent reduction does not apply if:
 you are on Income Support or Income-Based Job Seekers Allowance; or
 you receive a training allowance; or
 you are a student on a sandwich course during any period of placement or work experience; or
 your income is less than the sum of your applicable amount plus the amount of the rent reduction and you are eligible for the disability premium (or would be if you were not disqualified from incapacity benefit) or you have been incapable of work for 28 weeks or you are lone parent or you have a partner who is not a full-time student.

If the student rent deduction means that you are suffering hardship then contact your local authority and ask them if they can make a discretionary addition to your Housing Benefit. The local authority will not be able to increase your Housing Benefit to more than what your eligible rent would have been without the rent reduction.

c) Work out the ineligible rent

Your eligible rent and your actual rent may differ because of this ineligible rent. This rent is excluded for the purposes of Housing Benefit and includes water rates, fuel charges, personal laundry and meals.

d) Work out the non-dependent deductions

A non-dependent is someone in the household who is not dependent on the person who is claiming the Housing Benefit. A non-dependent must be over the age of 18, not the heterosexual partner of the person claiming and not a joint occupier/tenant, boarder, lodger, sub-tenant or a paid carer provided by a charity or a voluntary organisation.

e) Calculate your maximum housing benefit

You maximum Housing Benefit is the rent charged minus the student rent reduction (if applicable) minus ineligible charges and non-dependent deductions.

Step 4 – calculate your excess income

From your total income (see step 2), subtract the total applicable amount (see step 1). This is known as your excess income.

Step 5 – calculate 65% of your excess income

Take your excess income (see step 4) and multiply this by 0.65 to get 65% of your excess income.

Step 6 – calculate your housing benefit

Take your maximum housing benefit (see step 3) and subtract 65% of your excess income (see step 5). This is the amount of Housing Benefit you will get per week.


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Council Tax Benefit

Council Tax Benefit helps people to pay their council tax. There are two types of Council Tax Benefit - main Council Tax Benefit and Second Adult Rebate. You can only claim one type of benefit at a time.


Homes which are exempt from council tax

Some dwellings are exempt from council tax. This means that if you live in one of these kinds of homes you do not have to pay council tax so you are not eligible for Council Tax Benefit. These dwellings are:

 halls of residence mainly occupied by students
 dwellings where all the residents are students
 dwellings occupied by persons under 18 years of age
 dwellings where all occupants who would be liable for council tax are severely mentally impaired.


Who can claim Council Tax Benefit?

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

Basic conditions:
 you are liable for council tax for the home where you are resident
 your income is low enough
 you do not have savings and capital exceeding 16,000
 you are a UK resident and you are not subject to immigration control


Studying and claiming Council Tax Benefit

Most students cannot claim Council Tax Benefit. However, if you are studying and fulfil one or more of the following criteria you are eligible for Council Tax Benefit:

 you are a part-time student; or
 you are receiving Income Support or Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance; or
 you are under 19 and not on a course of higher education (degrees, teacher training, Higher National Diplomas, Higher National Certificates, post-graduate study); or
 you are a work trainee on a training allowance; or
 you meet the eligibility criteria for the disability premium (see page 2) or would do if you were not disqualified from Incapacity Benefit; or
 you qualify for a Disabled Students’ Allowances because you are deaf (see information sheet 3 Applying for the Disabled Students’ Allowances); or
 you have been incapable of work for 28 weeks; or
 you are waiting to go back to your course having taken approved time out because of illness or caring responsibilities and you are not covered by the student loan until you go back; or
 you and your partner are both full-time students and one of you or both of you are ‘responsible’ for a child or young person; or
 you are a lone parent; or
 you are a lone foster parent where the child has been placed with you by a local authority or voluntary agency within a formal agreement; or
 you are a pensioner who meets the conditions for the pensioner premium.


Second Adult Rebate

An alternative to Council Tax Benefit is Second Adult Rebate. You cannot get Second Adult Rebate and Council Tax Benefit at the same time. The local authority should assess you for Council Tax Benefit and the Second Adult Rebate and will award you whichever is the higher amount. You can get Second Adult Rebate if there are one or more ‘second adults’ living with you. A ‘second adult must be aged 18 or over and on Income Support, Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance or on a low income and be a non-dependant (eg is not a member of your family).


How to make a claim

If you are claiming Income Support or Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, you can claim for Council Tax Benefit at the same time. You will be eligible for maximum Council Tax Benefit. Otherwise you need to get a form from the local authority. You can still claim Council Tax Benefit if you have already paid your council tax bill in advance.


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Useful resources

Figures for personal allowances, premiums and non-dependent deductions can be obtained from the Benefits Agency or your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

Benefit Agency leaflets

IS8 - housing costs - help with housing costs
FB23 - young people’s guide to social security
GL17 - help with your council tax
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


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 contacts

Benefits Enquiry Line

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



Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities

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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)
info@skill.org.uk
www.skill.org.uk

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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