New rules seek to stop disabled students from claiming Universal Credit

4 mins read

Friday 5 November 2021

Tags: universal credit, education, financial help

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have introduced new regulations which will prevent students from getting Universal Credit even if they are able to show they have a limited capability for work.

Under the current rules a disabled person who is receiving education can still get Universal Credit so long as:

  1. they are on DLA or PIP; and
  2. they also can prove that they have a limited capability for work.

In order to prove you have a limited capability for work you need to go through a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) assessment called a work capability assessment. This can take several months to complete and involves making what is known as a ‘credits only’ claim for new style Employment and Support Allowance. While this means the current process is stressful, complicated and subject to very lengthy delays, it is at least still currently possible for a disabled person in education to eventually get Universal Credit.

What the new rule means

These new regulations mean that from the 15th December onwards, a claim for Universal Credit made by someone who is receiving education will be refused unless they had already established a limited capability for work before they started receiving education.

The Department’s intention seems to be that a disabled student will only be able to claim Universal Credit if they are someone who has been previously claiming benefits an adult who was unfit to work, and who has now moved back into education to better their prospects of work.

Contact’s benefits expert, Derek Sinclair, said:

“These new regulations are really bad news for young disabled people who are receiving education. It makes it much more likely that they will be refused Universal Credit and as a result some may feel they will need to consider giving up their course.

“It’s possible that some young people who have already reached the September after their 19th birthday and who are on non-traditional courses such as life skills courses may be able to convince the DWP not to treat them as ‘receiving education’ and thus still get Universal Credit. However, those who haven’t reached the September after their 19th birthday, alongside older students who are in full-time advanced education, are now at risk of being shut out of Universal Credit altogether.”

A Judicial Review of the lawfulness of the existing Universal Credit rules for disabled people receiving education is due to be heard in late November. Contact will be watching the outcome of that case very closely. If the DWP lose that case it may mean that these new rules will have to be abandoned.

What is Contact doing

Contact will continue to campaign to challenge the unfairness of rules and call on government to make it easier, not harder, for disabled young people in education to claim Universal Credit.

There is a real risk some young people may not be able to finish their education because of this new rule and therefore limit their opportunities for employment in the future.

Anyone who is affected by this rule and would like to speak out against it in the media or to their MP should email

Resources to help

Read our webpage on claiming Universal Credit for young people receiving education.

Watch our webinar on benefits for disabled children aged 16 and above. This webinar includes information on claiming Universal Credit and the barriers faced by young people on education, which features in the second half of the webinar. There is a separate webinar for parents in Scotland.

Watch our webinar if you live in England, Northern Ireland or Wales.

Watch the webinar if you live in Scotland.

Download our factsheet

We have a factsheet on claiming Universal Credit for a young disabled person. The rules are complex so we strongly recommend reading this factsheet.