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Disabled students should be given Universal Credit eligibility say UKIM

11 October 2018

All full-time disabled students who receive DLA or PIP should be eligible for universal credit on the grounds of being treated as having a limited capability for work, recommends the UK Independent Mechanism (UKIM).

The recommendation is one of several significant proposals made by UKIM on how the Government should mitigate the adverse impacts of social security reforms on disabled people.

Read UKIM report to the UN committee

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.

Disabled students who receive DLA or PIP can receive both ESA and Housing Benefit. 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, Universal Credit as it does not also automatically treat such students as having a “limited capability for work” - a ‘Catch 22’ trap - means that, 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 they have a “limited capability to work”.

To mitigate other adverse impacts of social security reform on disabled people, UKIM says the UK Government should: 

  • uprate all benefits in line with inflation and review the level of benefits to ensure this meets adequate living standards;

  • reinstate the level of work allowance to the 2012 level;

  • reinstate the severe and enhanced disability premiums under Universal Credit;

  • provide increased support to disabled people placed in the Employment and Support Allowance work-related activity group that is equivalent to the support group and acknowledges the additional, unavoidable living costs relating to their condition;

  • carry out an equality impact assessment of the conditionality and sanctions system on claimants to ensure that sanctions are not disproportionately applied, and that conditionality is reasonable and based on flexibility of easements, specifically for lone parent families, ethnic minority groups and disabled people;

  • introduce publicly available service standards for the social security system that set out the rights of claimants, are fair and accessible, and measured and reported on; and

  • ensure that work coaches are trained to deliver tailored employment support, providing evidence of the steps taken to ensure that the specific needs of lone parents and disabled people are being met.

For more information see:

Minister says Universal Credit designed to encourage disabled people to take up education – but doesn’t explain how

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

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

About UKIM

UKIM is made up of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI), the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC). Together, all four organisations are tasked, by the government, with promoting, protecting and monitoring implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.