As the pandemic and lockdown continues in the UK, you and your family may be experiencing financial difficulties or have concerns about the future.
If you are about to graduate, while you may still be able to take up employment offers, it is possible that some employment contracts will be postponed or cancelled. Looking for a new job may also be challenging for a while, so you need to know what your options are with respect to financial support and where you stand with bills and banking.
In this article we address some key questions which may be concerning you:
- I don’t have a full-time job; can I claim welfare benefits?
- Are there any conditions around residence for claiming benefits?
- What is the difference between Universal Credit and Job Seekers Allowance?
- If I have savings does this affect my eligibility for benefits?
- What if I am unable to work due to sickness or disability?
- Can I still receive money and housing advice from King’s if I experience financial issues after I graduate?
I don’t have a full-time job; can I claim welfare benefits?
Most full-time students don’t qualify for welfare benefits but once your course officially ends you may be eligible to apply for help with living and housing costs, if you don’t have sufficient income or savings to live on.
You may have some concerns about claiming welfare benefits, but you shouldn’t feel bad about claiming Universal Credit or Job Seekers Allowance. As a graduate, these benefits are in place to help you transition from full-time study to work, even if you are living at home or have job lined up in a few weeks. This is an important safety net, which you should claim just in case anything changes. If you meet the eligibility criteria below you should claim from the day after your official course end date.
Important to know:
- It is essential that you apply on time, as backdating the claim is not always possible and it can take at least 5 weeks to process your application.
- To claim out of work or low-income benefits, you will need to demonstrate that the UK (or Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man) is your main home and you plan to stay.
- You must also have the right to reside in the UK, so if you are not a UK national there may be restrictions on what you can claim or further evidence that you must provide.
Are there any conditions around residence for claiming benefits?
You can claim universal credit if you're classed as 'habitually resident' in the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man. ‘Habitual residence’ means you're settled here for the foreseeable future and you would have been living in the UK for a minimum of the last two years.
Important to know: There are further criteria if you are returning to the UK to settle and have been temporarily overseas. We advise that you please seek advice on your personal situation.
EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK can claim welfare benefits until 31 December 2020 as long as you continue to lawfully reside in the UK and meet the standard eligibility requirements.
Important to know: You will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to retain your rights in the UK at the end of the transition period.
For non-EEA nationals, the rules are much more complex for anyone who requires a visato live, work or study in the UK. You can usually claim Universal Credit if you have been granted Indefinite Leave to remain (ILR), unless your ILR was granted because of a relative sponsoring you – 5 years must have passed or the sponsor has died.
If you have limited leave to remain, and you are on a Student Visa (previously known as Tier 4) or as a dependant on a Tier 1 or Tier 2 you are likely to have a “no recourse to public funds” condition on your visa. This prohibits you from claiming most welfare benefits.
Important to know: The UK Home Office introduced a new immigration system which came into effect from 5 October 2020. The new “Student Visa” route replaced the “Tier 4 (General)” visa route. Please read our article New Student Visa Immigration Route for more information.
However there are some benefits that are linked to national insurance contribution, and therefore not considered public funds, so if you have worked in the past you may qualify for them:
- Bereavement benefits
- Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) (or ‘new style’ JSA)*
- NHS treatment - but you may have paid a fee for this when you applied to stay in the UK (this is called the ‘immigration health surcharge’)
- State-funded schools
- State Pension
- Statutory maternity pay
You can check what’s included in public funds from the UK government website.
What is the difference between Universal Credit and Job Seekers Allowance?
If you have worked and paid National Insurance (NI) contributions during the last 2 years it is best to claim contribution-based or the new style Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) (if you are in a Universal Credit area). This is because your savings, capital and partner’s income won’t affect your claim.
It also doesn’t matter what country you are from because JSA is based on NI contributions and is not a public fund. This is paid for 6 months only but may be the support you need while you seek graduate work.
Important to know: You can also claim contribution based JSA up to 3 months before you need it, but the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) don’t always accept this.
If you are not sure if you have paid enough NI contributions you can check this here - Check your National Insurance record.
If you have not been working and are eligible to do so you can claim Universal Credit instead. If you are working but only receiving a low income, you may also qualify for help from Universal Credit but your savings will be taken into consideration, and as a public fund non-EEA nationals will not be able to claim it.
If I have savings does this affect my eligibility for benefits?
If you are applying for Universal Credit, and you or your partner have £16,000 or more in savings you will not be entitled to help from the benefit. If you have between £6,000 and £16,000 in savings, then a reduction is calculated based on the amount you have. Any savings under £6,000 are ignored. You can find out more from the Money Advice Service.
What if I am unable to work due to sickness or disability?
You may be entitled to additional payments or you could apply for supplementary benefits. Some of these are ‘means-tested’ but most are based on how your illness or disability affects you and the amount of support you need.
You may also be eligible for this assistance when you are studying.
Important to know: If you have a “no recourse to public funds” condition on your visa then you are not permitted to apply, but we advise that you seek advice on your rights and any other options available to you.
Can I still receive money and housing advice from King’s if I experience financial issues after I graduate?
The Money & Housing Advice team at King’s College London are happy to provide advice and information for up to 4 months after you complete your studies, but we may not be able to act on your behalf. If you do need an advocate, we can signpost you to relevant services.
Please call the AdviceLine or complete the online booking form to contact the team.