BENEFITS EXPERT: College student asks if there any benefits they can claim?
Q. I am 19 and at college doing further education, I am estranged from my parents and currently staying with friends.
I get a small bursary from the college that covers my travel costs. Am I able to claim any benefits as I understand it can be difficult to get benefits if you are a student? I am in good health and have no children, also if I found a place to live could I get help with rental costs? I have not worked so have not paid any National Insurance contributions.
A. You could potentially submit a claim for Universal Credit but this would depend on the type of course/level of study you are engaging in. As long as the course is not classed as higher education and you have no parental support then you can submit a claim. Higher education would normally be classed as any course of study such as a degree or above. If your current study is for A’ levels or similar (such as some HND’s, BTEC course, etc.) then this would not normally be classed as higher education. Your college should be able to clarify if you are or not in higher education based on what you are studying.
You may still have commitments to meet as part of your Universal Credit agreement such as job seeking and this will be agreed with your job coach but these would normally be worked around your attendance at college.
If you were to become responsible for rent if you obtained a place of your own then your Universal Credit can be increased to take these into account but due to your age you will only be paid the shared accommodation rate if you rent privately, even if you are the only person in the tenancy. Alternatively if you were to obtain a tenancy from a social housing landlord then you would normally be paid most of your rent costs less any ineligible service charges and/or bedroom tax if the property has more than one bedroom.
To have any housing costs added simply report any change on your Universal Credit journal. You will normally follow this up by providing a copy of your tenancy agreement.
If there is any rental shortfall (whether this is a private rent or social LL) then you can also submit a claim for discretionary housing payments from your local council. Renting a property will normally create liability for council tax, however you may qualify for student exemption as long as the course will last for 3 months and you study for at least 12 hours/week. If you failed to qualify for an exemption then you would still be able to obtain a single person discount (if you lived alone) and claim council tax reduction to reduce your overall liability.