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Chapter 21: Time out from studies
Basic facts
    Students may be able to receive student support or get social security benefits during periods of absence from their course.
    Support is usually only available if you have taken time out because you are ill or pregnant, or because you have to care for someone.
    Support may also be available once you have recovered from your illness or your caring responsibilities have ceased and you are waiting to return to your course.
Full-time students
Which benefits you are eligible for depends on how long you have been ill, your age, whether you have paid any national insurance (NI) contributions, and whether you need personal care or have mobility difficulties. Once you have recovered, you may be able to get universal credit (UC) or, occasionally, jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) until you can return to your course.
You usually still count as a full-time student when taking time out of your course, unless you have completely abandoned or been dismissed from it (but see here for when this may not apply).1UC Reg 13(1)(a) UC Regs
ESA Reg 2(1), definition of ‘period of study’, ESA Regs
HB Reg 53(2) HB Regs
Note: if you have to take time out from your studies because you are ill, you cannot usually make a new claim for income-related employment and support allowance (ESA) or housing benefit (HB), as these benefits are in the process of being replaced by UC. However, an exception applies (for HB only) if you are in certain specified or temporary accommodation (see here).
 
1     UC Reg 13(1)(a) UC Regs
ESA Reg 2(1), definition of ‘period of study’, ESA Regs
HB Reg 53(2) HB Regs
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From the start of your ill health
If you have paid sufficient NI contributions in recent years, you are eligible for contributory ESA after seven ‘waiting days’ (see Chapter 4).
From three months
You can claim personal independence payment (PIP) (or adult disability payment (ADP) when it is introduced in your area) if you need help getting around or with daily living activities because of a disability. You are eligible for this after three months if your disability is likely to last at least another nine months.
You can claim UC if you get PIP, ADP or disability living allowance (DLA) and have ‘limited capability for work’ (which must have been assessed before your course starts). Your claim for UC is likely to be refused outright if you do not already have limited capability for work before your course starts. You can claim contributory ESA in order to establish that you have limited capability for work (although you do not have to get any ESA to qualify in this way). Once you are found to have limited capability for work for ESA (and you also get PIP, ADP or DLA), you are then eligible for UC as long as you claim before your course starts.
From 28 weeks
Once you have had ‘limited capability for work’ for 28 weeks, you can claim HB to help with your rent (if you can make a new claim for this - see here).
The 28-week period runs from the day your limited capability for work begins, not from the day you leave your course. See here for how limited capability for work is assessed. You do not need to have been working to count as having limited capability for work. Note: you can have limited capability for work but still be able to study, so HB can continue when you return to college or university.
Example
Sean is ill and takes time out of his course. He is not eligible for PIP, and has not worked enough to qualify for contributory ESA. He gets no benefits until he has been ill for 28 weeks, when he can claim HB (because he lives in temporary accommodation). He makes a claim for ESA, supported by a backdated medical certificate, in order to establish his limited capability for work, and also fills in a claim form for HB.
Once you have recovered
Once you have recovered, you may need to wait some time to be readmitted to your course. During this time you can claim UC (or HB if you can make a new claim – see here).1UC Reg 13(4) UC Regs
JSA Reg 1(3D) JSA Regs; para 30209 DMG
HB Reg 56(6) HB Regs
You can claim for up to one year from the day you recover until the day the college or university agrees you can return to your course. You are not eligible if you get a grant or loan during this time. Once the student support stops, you can claim benefit.
 
1     UC Reg 13(4) UC Regs
JSA Reg 1(3D) JSA Regs; para 30209 DMG
HB Reg 56(6) HB Regs
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Student support
Although payment of your student loan can be suspended after 60 days’ absence because of ill health, the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) has the discretion to continue to pay you until the end of the academic year.
Your college or university should tell SAAS the reason you have suspended your studies.
If you need to repeat a year for health reasons, discretionary repeat-year funding may be available. Alternatively, you may get funding for one extra year for whatever reason, although this depends on your previous study.
If you select the repeat-year funding box on your application, SAAS contacts you to tell you if it needs additional information.
If you take time out from your course because of ill health and are not paid a student loan during this time, the unpaid student loan does not count as ‘notional’ income when calculating your ESA.1Reg 137(4A) ESA Regs For UC and HB, the unpaid loan is arguably not counted as ‘notional’ income, because payment of it is discretionary.
 
1     Reg 137(4A) ESA Regs »
Part-time students
If you are a part-time student (and do not count as receiving education for UC – see here), you can claim UC as soon as you are ill or disabled, whether or not you get PIP or DLA.
From the start of your ill health
If you are already getting UC, you can submit a fit note if you become ill or disabled.
You can claim contributory ESA if you have paid sufficient NI contributions.
From three months
You can claim PIP (or ADP if it is introduced in your area) if you need help getting around or with daily living activities because of a disability. You are eligible for this after three months if your disability is likely to last at least another nine months.
Once you have recovered
You can claim UC (or, sometimes, contribution-based JSA - see here).
2. Pregnancy and children
There is no provision for pregnant full-time students to claim universal credit (UC), income support or housing benefit.
If you are a part-time student, you can get UC and you will have no work-related requirements from 11 weeks before your expected week of childbirth.
If you have an employer, you may be able to get statutory maternity pay. If you are not working now but have worked recently, you may be able to get maternity allowance.
Once the baby is born, there are various benefits you can claim. You can also get a ‘baby box’ from the Scottish government, containing basic items for a newborn baby.1gov.scot/news/registration-for-baby-box-will-begin-in-june
Paramedic, nursing and midwifery students can continue to receive their bursary for a period of up to 45 weeks’ maternity leave.
Lone parents
Once the baby is born, if you are a lone parent studying full time you can claim:
Fathers and partners
If your partner has had a baby and you have an employer, you may be able to claim statutory paternity pay. You can claim if you are the child’s father or the mother’s partner and you will be caring for the baby or the mother. You may also be able to claim statutory shared parental pay.
Couples
Throughout the course, including in the summer vacation, a full-time student couple (ie, both partners are students) with a child can claim:
    child benefit;
    UC;
    Best Start foods (see here);
    Scottish child payment (for children under six).
Couples can also claim a Best Start grant if one partner gets a qualifying benefit (see here).
3. Carers
If you are a full-time student, you cannot claim universal credit (UC) or get income support while you are looking after someone who is ill or disabled. You cannot usually claim carer’s allowance (CA), but you may be able to if you have had to interrupt your studies and the interruption is not temporary (see here).
Part-time students can claim UC and, usually, CA (see here).
If you are a full-time student, you may have to stop your course while you are caring. If you have to wait to return to it once your caring responsibilities have ended, you can claim UC. You can claim for up to a year until the day from when your institution agrees you can return to your course. You are not eligible if you get a grant or loan during this time.
Students age 16-18 can apply for a young carer’s grant (see here).
4. Re-sits
If you are a full-time student taking time out to re-sit exams, you are still treated as a student during your absence from the course. You cannot claim universal credit (UC) during this time, unless you would be eligible anyway as a student – eg, as a parent. However, if you are taking professional qualifications set by a professional institute or some other body unconnected to your own college or university, you may be able to claim UC while taking time out for re-sits. You may need to appeal and argue that caselaw supports your getting benefit.1R(JSA) 2/02
If your university allows you to ‘register with attendance’, you may be able to get a student loan and grant for living costs from the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) during a re-sit year. ‘Registering with attendance’ means you are registered as a full-time student, but you attend your course on a part-time basis for a year. SAAS does not pay your tuition fees or give you a bursary. If you are eligible for benefit, you may be better off being in ‘academic suspension’ for the year: you cannot get a loan, but you can claim UC (if you are a student who can get UC).
Note: you also continue to count as a full-time student if you are doing re-sits after the official end date of your course.2UC Reg 13(2)(a) UC Regs
IS Reg 61(3) IS Regs; para 30236 DMG
 
1     R(JSA) 2/02 »
2     UC Reg 13(2)(a) UC Regs
IS Reg 61(3) IS Regs; para 30236 DMG
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5. Time out for other reasons
If you take time out of your course for another reason, you usually still count as a full-time student, with no additional entitlement to benefits during your time out. However, if you are on a modular course and take a full year (or more) out of the course, you may no longer count as a student and may therefore be able to claim universal credit under the normal (non-student) rules.1RVS v SSWP (ESA) [2019] UKUT 102 (AAC)
 
1     RVS v SSWP (ESA) [2019] UKUT 102 (AAC) »

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