Benefits for Students in Scotland Handbook
Part 1: Benefits and tax credits
Chapter 14: Other payments
1. Best Start grants
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1. Best Start grants

If you are pregnant or have a young child, you may be entitled to a Best Start grant. There are three separate one-off payments available.Footnote These are:

a pregnancy and baby payment of £600 if it is your first child, or £300 for a second or subsequent child. You can apply from the 24th week of pregnancy until six months after the baby is born;

an early learning payment of £250 if you have a child aged between two and three-and-a-half years old;

a school age payment of £250 in the year your child would normally start school. 

You are eligible for these payments if you are under 18 or get a qualifying benefit. You are also eligible if you are 18 or 19 and someone else claims child benefit, universal credit (UC), child tax credit (CTC) or pension credit for you.  There are no special rules for students. Qualifying benefits are:

UC (including if you got UC in the last month and it has now stopped);

income support;

income-based jobseeker’s allowance;

income-related employment and support allowance;

pension credit;

housing benefit;


working tax credit. 

See for more details. You can apply online, by phone on 0800 182 2222 or by downloading a paper form.  Go to for more information or to start an application.  

2. Best Start foods

You can get a payment card to buy certain foods under the Best Start foods scheme if you are pregnant or have a child under three and you get a qualifying benefit, or if you are under 18.

Qualifying benefits are:Footnote

universal credit (if you have earnings, they must be under £610 a month); income support; income-based jobseeker's allowance; income-related employment and support allowance; pension credit; housing benefit (if you have income under £311 a week);

child tax credit (if you have income under £16,190); 

working tax credit (if you have income under £7,320 a year). 

3. Funeral support payments

At the time of writing, from summer 2019 funeral support payments were due to replace social fund funeral payments in Scotland. See for more details and up-to-date information about when these payments are introduced.

Funeral support payments are to help with burial or cremation costs for a partner, family member or friend. It has to be reasonable for you to accept responsibility for the costs, and this requires looking at factors including whether it is more reasonable for someone closer to the person who has died to take responsibility. There are no special rules for students. 

You must get one of the following qualifying benefits:Footnote

universal credit (including if you got this in the last month and it has now stopped);

income support;

income-based jobseeker’s allowance;

income-related employment and support allowance;

pension credit;

housing benefit;

child tax credit; or

working tax credit. 

Note: until funeral support payments are introduced, you can still apply for social fund funeral payments. See the previous edition of this Handbook for more information.

4. Budgeting loans

You can get a budgeting loan to help you pay for certain items – eg, furniture, clothes, removal expenses, rent in advance, home improvements, travelling expenses, maternity expenses, funeral expenses and jobseeking expenses. If you are claiming universal credit, you must apply for a budgeting advance instead of a budgeting loan (see Cross reference). There are no special rules for students. 

The amount of budgeting loan you can get depends on the size of your family and how long you have been on benefit. To qualify, you must have been getting one of the following for at least 26 weeks before your claim is decided:

income support; income-based jobseeker's allowance;   income-related employment and support allowance; or pension credit.

See CPAG's Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook for details of who can get a loan and how to apply.

5. The Scottish Welfare Fund

Local authorities administer the Scottish Welfare Fund. This comprises community care grants to help people remain in or establish themselves in the community and crisis grants for people without money because of a disaster or emergency. To qualify, you must be on a low income. You may get a crisis grant, for example, if you are on a low income and there has been a disaster like a fire or a flood, or you have lost money that you needed to live on. Students are not excluded from applying to the Scottish Welfare Fund. More information, including how to apply, is at

6. Challenging a decision

If you think a decision about your Best Start grant or funeral support payment is wrong, you can ask Social Security Scotland (SSS) to look at it again. This process is known as a ‘redetermination’. The time limit is usually one month from the decision being notified to you. If you are still not happy when you get the further decision, you can appeal to the independent First-tier Tribunal. If it was not possible to ask SSS to redetermine the decision within 31 days,  you can ask for a late redetermination (within one year), explaining why it is late.

You can ask for a review of a budgeting loan decision within 28 days of the day the decision was issued to you (or sometimes later, if you have special reasons or if there is a mistake in the decision about the law or the facts of your case).

You can ask for a review of a Scottish Welfare Fund decision within 20 days (or later if you have good reasons for asking for this late). If you are still not happy, you can ask for the decision to be looked at again by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman ( 

Part 2: Student support
Chapter 15: Student support

This chapter covers:

1. Full-time higher education (below)

2. Full-time further education (Cross reference)

3. Part-time students (Cross reference)

4. Postgraduates (Cross reference)

5. Nursing and midwifery students (Cross reference)

6. Other support for students (Cross reference)

This chapter outlines the support available for people studying in Scotland who are eligible for student support under the Scottish system. It lists the type of support available, but does not describe the rules for qualifying for it – eg, residence rules. For where to find information on claiming student support and how much you might get, see Appendix 2. See Chapter 16 for how student support affects universal credit, Chapter 17 for how it affects means-tested benefits, Chapter 18 for how it affects tax credits and Chapter 19 for how it affects health benefits.

Basic facts

- Most full-time undergraduate students are eligible for a student loan, and may also get a bursary and living costs grant.

– Full-time students in non-advanced education may be eligible for a bursary maintenance allowance, and grants for travel and study costs.

– Part-time students may get help with fees and other limited support.

1. Full-time higher education

This section is for full-time undergraduates (including allied healthcare students) and full-time students on Higher National Certificate (HNC)/Higher National Diploma (HND) courses. It is also relevant for full-time students on Professional Graduate Diploma in Education courses. Funding is different for other full-time postgraduates (see Cross reference) and for nursing and midwifery students (see Cross reference).

Student support from the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) is made up of:Footnote

tuition fees; student loan; care experienced students' bursary; young students' bursary; independent students' bursary; dependants' grant; lone parents' grant; care experienced accommodation grant; disabled students' allowance.

In addition, your college or university administers a:

lone parents' childcare grant; discretionary fund; childcare fund.

Travel expenses are no longer available, except for students doing a compulsory year abroad, for a placement on an allied health professions or nursing course, and for disabled students who cannot use public transport.

Previous study

You cannot usually get your tuition fees paid if you have previously been on a full-time higher education course and had help from public funds. You may, however, get one year's additional funding if you need this – eg, to change courses or repeat a period of study. This is known as a 'plus one' year.

Contact SAAS to check your entitlement. Even if you are not entitled to help with your tuition fees, you can normally apply for a student loan and living costs grants.

Tuition fees
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