UC denies most disabled people opportunity to enter full time HE

Thu,6 July 2017
News Benefits

Most disabled full time students cannot successfully claim Universal Credit - the new means tested benefit that is being rolled out to replace existing working age benefits.


Please email any relevant examples or call our student helpline

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

Disability Rights UK (DR UK) is trying to highlight that 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 if they are unable to access UC housing costs support.

Currently, disabled students who receive Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment can receive both Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Housing Benefit.

This is because they are automatically treated as having a “limited capability for work”.

Receipt of both benefits 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”.***

In addition, under Universal Credit rules as full-time students they are denied the very chance to undergo the DWP’s “work capability assessment” to determine if in fact a “limited capability to work”.

Most full time disabled students are unable to claim Universal Credit on other grounds as they cannot actively seek work, are not lone parents with young children or carers.

The University Credit rules relating to disabled students:

  • we’re not subject to any equality impact assessment; and
  • we’re not referred to in the extensive explanatory notes published with the Universal Credit regulations 2013.

In addition, the DWP itself was not fully aware of their impact. This suggests that they may have been introduced more by lack of forethought than design.

When DR UK first raised the issue with them in 2016 we were advised that disabled students could be paid Universal Credit on the supplying of a GP’s medical certificate.

However, the DWP now says that this position is incorrect and that most disabled students are ineligible for the new benefit.

DR UK is calling on the Government to amend the Universal Credit rules to align them with current rules for ESA and Housing Benefit.

We 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.

Note: DR UK is waiting for confirmation from the DWP that disabled students in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance who then move to a Universal Credit area will be able to be paid the new benefit. 

*** Under Universal Credit you can only be treated as automatically having a “limited capability for work” if you are terminally ill; suffering from a uncontrolled life threatening disease; receiving or likely to receive treatment for cancer; you have been given official notice not to work because you have been in contact with an infectious disease or contamination; you are pregnant and there would be a serious risk to the health of you or your child if you did not refrain from work; or have reached pension credit age.