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Government ends disabled students Universal Credit entitlement without knowing how many affected

07 August 2017

Government regulations barring most disabled students Universal Credit seems to have been implemented without regard to its ‘savings cost’ or effects.

Universal Credit, which replaces means tested benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Housing Benefit (HB) is being increasingly 'rolled out’ to more UK areas in its ‘full service’ form.

Receipt of ESA and HB means that disabled students can top-up their student finance with ESA to pay for their extra disability related costs and attend colleges and universities away from their home.

However, this ability is denied to them under Universal Credit, as unlike ESA, as it does not automatically treat them as having a “limited capability for work” if they are in receipt of DLA or PIP.

The current situation creates a ‘post code lottery’ where some disabled students can still claim ESA and HB but others can only claim and be refused Universal Credit.

Disability Rights UK submitted the following Freedom of Information Act request to the DWP –

“Regulation 18 of the Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008 provides that full time disabled students are eligible for income based ESA if they are entitled to Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment – on the grounds that they are treated as having “a limited capability for work”.

Could you tell us –

  • how many full time disabled students are currently in receipt of income based ESA on the above basis?
  • how many awards of income based ESA have been made to full time disabled students on the above basis since the benefit was introduced in October 2008? “

In agreeing it held this information but refusing to give it, the DWP says –

“We can confirm that we hold information falling within the description specified in your request. However, we estimate that the cost of complying with your request would exceed the appropriate limit for central Government, set by regulations at £600. complying with your request would exceed the appropriate limit for central Government, set by regulations at £600. “

DR UK’s Welfare Rights Officer Ken Butler said –

“Only a very small minority of Universal Credit claimants would include disabled students if they were made eligible to claim it in the same way as ESA and Housing Benefit.

Yet the effects on individual disabled people of not being able to take up higher education may affect their whole futures.

It is appalling that the Government has restricted disabled people’s ability to study and claim Universal Credit seemingly without investigating how many will be affected and if the limited savings it produces could be objectively justified.

If it had done so, surely the ESA statistics we asked for would be readily available.”

Last month, MPs from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Disability wrote to the DWP Minister Damian Hinds to urge that all full-time disabled students who receive DLA or PIP be eligible to receive Universal Credit.

The letter from members of the APPG said:

“Only 16% of disabled people have a degree level qualification compared to 30% of non-disabled people.

Universal Credit will inevitably make this situation worse as it:

  • adds to the financial barrier to disabled people accessing higher education; and
  • bars disabled people from accessing residential college or other rented accommodation.

We would urge the Government to make the following simple addition to Schedule 8 (Circumstances in which a claimant is to be treated as having limited capability for work) of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 so that this applies where:

“The claimant is undertaking a course of education and is entitled to a disability living allowance, armed forces independence payment or personal independence payment.”

DR UK  are keen to hear from disabled students about the value of ESA and Housing Benefit to them and why:

  • it made a difference to their ability to study; and
  • what the consequences would have been if this income was not available.

We aim to use such case study examples in lobbying for an urgent amendment of the Universal Credit rules.

For further on this see:

https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2017/may/dwp-deny-work-capability-assessments-disabled-students

https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2017/july/uc-denies-most-disabled-people-opportunity-enter-full-time-he

https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2017/august/mps-urge-rule-change-enable-uc-be-payable-disabled-students

https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/students-universal-credit-case-studies-wanted