MPs urge rule change to enable UC to be payable to disabled students

Tue,1 August 2017
News Benefits

Seven members of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Disability have written 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.

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 it does not automatically treat them as having a “limited capability for work”.

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.

The letter from members of the APPG says:

“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.”

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The DWP has confirmed to DR UK that only disabled students who receive DLA or PIP and have had their limited capability for work agreed by a work capability assessment are eligible for Universal Credit.

However, it has not been uncommon for ESA claimants to wait up to a year for a work capability assessment appointment.

If a disabled student is still being only ‘treated as having a limited capability for work’ as they have not yet attended a work capability assessment the DWP says that they cannot be awarded Universal Credit.

In addition, Article 4 of Universal Credit Commencement Orders mean, if such a disabled student does claim Universal Credit, not only will it be refused but their claim will also lead to ending of their ESA.

You can view a list of areas where full service Universal Credit has already been rolled out and a timetable for the future roll out of full UC

Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights Adviser said:

“The DWP’s belated confirmation that many existing disabled students being legitimately being paid ESA are barred from Universal Credit makes an unfair situation even worse.

Disabled students may have made their decisions on undertaking courses away from home partly on their ability claim housing benefit.

If their college or university is then included in a ‘full service’ Universal Credit area this may mean them abandoning a course before they even start it.”

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