Benefits for Students in Scotland Handbook
Part 1: Benefits and tax credits
Chapter 12: Universal cre...
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Chapter 12: Universal credit

This chapter covers:

1. What is universal credit (Cross reference)

2. Who is eligible (Cross reference)

3. Basic rules (Cross reference)

4. Amount of benefit (Cross reference)

5. Claiming universal credit (Cross reference)

6. Challenging a decision (Cross reference)

7. Other benefits and tax credits (Cross reference)

Basic facts

– Universal credit (UC) is a new benefit, replacing means-tested benefits and tax credits.

– It can include amounts for adults, children, illness, caring responsibilities, rent and childcare costs.

– You claim with your partner, and you are paid monthly in arrears in a single household payment.

– UC 'full service' is being rolled out to all areas by the end of 2018.

- If you already get UC when you start studying, you can only continue to do so in certain circumstances – eg, if you have a child.  

– The amount you get is usually affected by any grant, loan or other income you have.

1. What is universal credit

Universal credit (UC) is a new means-tested benefit for people of working age. The 'full service' of UC has been introduced in most local authority areas in Scotland. All areas are expected to become full service by the end of 2018. 

In a UC 'full service' area, you cannot make a new claim for a benefit or tax credit that UC is replacing (except for housing benefit (HB) in some cases - see Cross reference, or, if you have not yet claimed UC and you have three or more children – this exception may end from February 2019). You must claim UC instead. Once you claim UC, you remain on UC (provided you are still eligible), even if your circumstances change.

UC replaces the following benefits and tax credits:

income support;

income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA);

income-related employment and support allowance (ESA);


child tax credit (CTC);

working tax credit (WTC).

UC is being introduced gradually, so whether a new claim is for UC or an existing benefit depends on your circumstances and where you live. For example, if you have recently lost your job and you live in a 'full service' area, you have to claim UC rather than make a new claim for income-based JSA (unless you have three or more children). This applies even if you already get HB or tax credits. These benefits then stop, as they are replaced by UC.

If you have claimed UC and then start studying, you may be able to remain on UC in some circumstances – broadly, if you are a parent, have a disability, if you are a young student in non-advanced education and without parental support, or if you have a partner who is not a student.

If you are in a UC 'full service' area and claim contributory ESA and contribution-based JSA, slightly different rules apply concerning your ability to work and your work-related responsibilites.  

The amount you get is based on your circumstances (eg, whether you have a partner or child, or care for someone with a disability) and is usually affected by any grant, loan or other income you have.

2. Who is eligible

To qualify for universal credit (UC), you must satisfy all the basic rules described on Cross reference. Most students cannot claim UC, although there are some exceptions (see below). For UC, a student is referred to as someone 'receiving education'.

If you get UC then start studying, or you are a student who starts living with a partner who gets UC, you can stay on UC if you are in one of the groups of students who can claim, and you satisfy the basic rules.


Receiving education

You are 'receiving education' if you are:Footnote 

  –a qualifying young person. This applies if you are in non-advanced education of at least 12 hours a week and have not yet reached 31 August after your 19th birthday;

  –undertaking a full-time course of advanced education (see Cross reference – the rules are the same as for income support);Footnote

  –on another full-time course for which a loan, grant or bursary is provided for your maintenance;

  – if none of the above apply, on a course that is not compatible with your ’work-related requirements’ – ie, what you are expected to do in terms of looking for work.

You are 'undertaking a course' from the day you start the course until the last day of the course (or an earlier date when you abandon or are dismissed from the course).Footnote 

Who can claim universal credit

If you do not count as receiving education, you can claim UC in the same way as anyone else.

If you count as receiving education, you are only eligible for UC if you:Footnote

are responsible for a child or young person;

are under 22 on a non-advanced course, you were under 21 when you started the course, and you are ’without parental support’ (see below);

have limited capability for work and also get disability living allowance or personal independence payment.  Note: if the DWP refuses to allow you to claim UC and be referred for a work capability assessment to assess whether you have limited capability for work, you may be able to claim contributory employment and support allowance in order to establish your limited capability for work, and then claim UC once it has been established;

are a single foster parent;

are a member of a student couple and one of you is a foster parent;

are over the qualifying age for pension credit and your partner has not yet reached that age;

have a partner who is not a student, or who is a student but would be eligible for UC her/himself while studying;

have taken time out because of illness or caring responsibilities, you have now recovered or your caring responsibilities have ended, and you are not eligible for a grant or loan.

If you are in one of the above groups and have a partner who is also a student, you can make a joint claim for UC with her/him, even if s/he is not in one of these groups.Footnote 

Without parental support

'Without parental support' means you:Footnote

  –are an orphan; or

– cannot live with your parents because you are estranged from them, or because there is a serious risk to your physical or mental health, or you would face significant harm if you lived with them; or

– are living away from your parents, and they cannot support you financially because they are ill or disabled, in prison or not allowed to enter Great Britain.

Note: if you are aged 16 or 17 and receiving education, you can only claim UC if you are covered by one of the first three bullet points above – ie, you have a child, are without parental support and in non-advanced education, or are ill or disabled. If you are a 16/17-year-old care leaver and are receiving education, you can only claim if you have a child or are ill or disabled, and you cannot get help with housing costs.Footnote


Jodie is 18 and on UC. She starts a full-time course of non-advanced education. She is estranged from her parents. She is still eligible for UC.


Lewis is on UC. He moves in with his partner Liz, who is on a full-time advanced course and has a three-year-old child. They are eligible for UC.


Pauline is 23 and is on UC. She starts a full-time non-advanced course. The DWP decides that her course is not compatible with her work-related requirements, so she counts as 'receiving education'. She is single and not disabled. She is not eligible for UC while she is on her course. 


Karen is on UC. She moves in with her partner, Jake, who is unemployed. Karen starts a full-time advanced course. They are still eligible for UC.


Donna is a lone parent with a nine-year-old son. She is on housing benefit (HB) and child tax credit (CTC). She lives in a UC 'full service' area. In the summer vacation she claims UC and her HB and CTC stop.

Work-related requirements
Even if you are a student who can claim UC, you may have to meet certain ’work-related requirements’ in order to get UC. These are set out in a 'claimant commitment', drawn up by your work coach at the job centre. If it is not possible to do so while on your course, you may be given a sanction and your UC may be reduced. See CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook for more information about work-related requirements and sanctions.

There are no work-related requirements if you are receiving education and you are:Footnote

under 22 (and were under 21 when you started your course), in non-advanced education and have no parental support; or

eligible for UC as a student (unless you are eligible after having taken time out because of illness or caring responsibilities) and you are in receipt of student income which is taken into account for UC – ie, a student loan or a grant for maintenance. This only applies during the period of the year in which your student income is taken into account. Normally, this is over the academic year (see Chapter 16). Over the summer vacation you may be subject to work-related requirements.

If you are not exempt from work-related requirements under the rules above and not exempt for any other reason (eg, because you have a child under one or you are severely disabled), you must meet your work-related requirements, otherwise you can be sanctioned. This means that your UC is reduced by the level of your standard allowance (see Cross reference). This reduction can last up to three years in some cases, even if you later meet your work-related requirements. You may be able to challenge a sanction. If you are given a sanction, get advice as soon as possible.


Sukhi is a full-time further education student . She gets a bursary maintenance allowance. She has a 12-year-old daughter. She claims UC. Because she is  in receipt of a student  grant for maintenance, no work-related requirements apply.


Sean is a lone parent with one child aged eight, studying a full-time Higher National Diploma course. He claims UC and does not have any work-related requirements applied because he gets a student loan. His long vacation starts on 14 June 2019. For the assessment period covering 15 June and the next two assessment periods, which are wholly within his summer vacation, he is subject to work-related requirements. If Sean cannot meet these requirements, he may be sanctioned and his UC reduced.

3. Basic rules

Universal credit (UC) is for people on a low income who are in or out of work. You can claim regardless of your circumstances, provided you meet the basic rules about age, education, residence, income and capital. So, for example, lone parents, people with a disability, carers and unemployed people can all claim UC. However, because UC is being introduced gradually, you can only claim in a 'full service' area and if you are a student who can get UC.

As well as being a student who is eligible to claim UC, you must satisfy all the following conditions.

You are aged 18 or over. There are exceptions for some 16/17-year-olds – eg, if you are estranged from your parents, are a parent yourself, are sick or disabled or if you are caring for someone with a disability.

You are under the qualifying age for pension credit (see Cross reference).

You are in Great Britain, satisfy the ’habitual residence’ and the ’right to reside’ tests, and are not a ’person subject to immigration control’. These terms are explained in CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook.

You have no more than £16,000 capital.

Your income is less than your ’maximum amount’ of UC (see Cross reference).

You have agreed a ’claimant commitment’, setting out what you must do to receive your UC. If you have a partner, you must each agree a claimant commitment to get benefit.

4. Amount of benefit

The amount of universal credit (UC) you get depends on your circumstances and the circumstances of your partner. The amount also depends on your and your partner’s income and capital. Go through the following steps to work out the amount of UC to which you are entitled.

Step one: capital

If your capital is over £16,000, you cannot get UC. Some kinds of capital are ignored. For details, see CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook.

Step two: work out your maximum amount

Your maximum amount is worked out by adding together the monthly amounts of the standard allowance and any other elements for which you are eligible.

Step three: work out your monthly income
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