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Disabled students to lose entitlement to Universal Credit from this week

15 December 2021

Disability Rights UK has written to the Secretary of State Therese Coffey, urging the removal of new regulations barring Higher Education Disabled Students from Universal Credit.

The new benefit rules, which  come into force on 15 December 2021, provide that a Disabled person entitled to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) can only be eligible for Universal Credit (UC) if they are determined as having a “limited capability for work” before they start their degree course.

As there is only a short interval between finishing Secondary Education and starting a degree, effectively  Disabled young people won’t be able to undergo a work capability assessment (which can often take around nine months to secure) and will therefore be barred from claiming UC during their course of study.

In addition, young people who acquire a disability or develop a serious health condition after they begin their studies will also be excluded from UC.

It is already twice as likely that a non-disabled student will attain a degree level qualification than a Disabled student – this gap will only increase if Disabled students are not able to supplement their income with UC.

The recent Health and Disability Green Paper emphasised the Government’s intention that more Disabled people move into employment. However, restricting the ability of Disabled students to claim UC works against this commitment.

Following previous representations by Disability Rights UK, both the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Work and Pensions Select Committee  have recommended that receipt of PIP or DLA should be accepted as evidence of a limited capability for work, enabling Disabled students to receive Universal Credit.

The reason UC can be vital for Disabled students is because it covers living costs over the long summer holidays when student grants/loans don’t apply. Disabled students find it harder to supplement their grants/loans with employment. Housing costs can also be higher, where accessible or adapted accommodation is needed, and this is not covered   by student finance.

Ken Butler, DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser, said: “The new regulations will bar some Disabled students from going to University.

“The regulations were only published last month and many Disabled students and those advising them will be unaware of the need to establish their limited capability for work before starting their course.

“If they do not do so, they will be excluded from Universal Credit for the whole duration of their course.

“Those students who acquire a disability or develop a serious health condition during their studies will also be excluded.”

For more information see New rules tighten exclusion of Disabled students from Universal Credit available from disabilityrightsuk.org.