New rules preventing Universal Credit claims by most disabled students come into force today

3 mins read

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Tags: universal credit, welfare benefits, benefits at 16, preparing for adult life

Today sees the introduction of new rules designed to prevent most disabled students from claiming Universal Credit.

These new rules apply to Universal Credit claims made on or after the 15 December. They do not affect disabled students already getting Universal Credit. 

What do the new rules mean?

It is no longer be possible for a disabled student to qualify for Universal Credit by undergoing a work capability assessment while on their course to prove they have a limited capability for work.

Instead, someone who is treated as ‘receiving education’ will only be able to claim Universal Credit if they have previously established a limited capability for work before they started receiving education. 

The Department for Work and Pension (DWP)’s intention seems to be that a disabled student will only be able to claim Universal Credit if they are someone who had been previously claiming benefits as an adult who is unfit to work, and who then subsequently moved back into education at a later date. 

As a result of these changes, most disabled students won’t be able to get Universal Credit.

Are they any exceptions?

There are some exceptions to this. Part-time students may still be able to claim, as might young people who remain in full-time non-advanced education (like school or a college course) beyond the August after their 19th birthday. But this is only if they can convince the DWP that there is no conflict between their attendance on their course and any work-related conditions attached to their claim.

Young people in full-time non-advanced education who haven’t reached the September after their 19th birthday, alongside students in full-time advanced education, will no longer be able to claim Universal Credit unless they fall into certain limited categories. This includes students who have a child of their own and some students aged under 21 without parental support. 

See our webpage for more details on the new rules and exceptional cases.

‘They should have consulted on such fundamental changes’

Contact’s benefits expert Derek Sinclair said: “These new regulations will make it impossible for most disabled students to claim Universal Credit. We are worried that as a result, some young people may feel forced to consider giving up their course.

“Contact believes it is unacceptable to make such important changes to financial support available without any consultation on the impact of disabled students and their families. Especially since it was relatively easy for disabled students to claim means-tested benefits before Universal Credit was introduced.

“The DWP says that preventing claims by disabled students has always been a long-standing policy intention under Universal Credit. But if that is the case, they should have consulted on such fundamental changes — something that appears not to have happened when Universal Credit was introduced.”

We have continually raised concerns about these new rules and will continue to do so. Our research was cited in Parliament this week during a prayer motion to annul the new regulations.

If you’ve been affected, we’d like to hear from you. Email [email protected]

More information

Read our advice on claiming Universal Credit for a young person in education, our webpage on Universal Credit and our webpage on benefits at 16.