Skip to main content
Advice and Counselling Service

Extra money: disability and ill health

As a student, your income will usually come from a number of different sources to make up a package of support. As a student with a disability or ongoing ill health (physical or mental), you may also be eligible to claim certain extra money, which we explain on this page. The information may seem complex so you are encouraged to also contact a Welfare Adviserto discuss your options.  

Who this applies to

This information is for ‘Home’ or ‘Home/EU’ fee status undergraduate and postgraduate students, full or part-time. This includes EU/EEA and Swiss nationals who have been granted Pre-settled or Settled status. If you are in the UK with Student immigration permission you cannot usually claim welfare benefits because you have a ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition on your visa. International students in financial hardship, please see our International Money webpages or contact a Welfare Adviser. 

Specialist support at Queen Mary

The Disability and Dyslexia Service at Queen Mary advises students with any disability, mental health condition, or specific learning difference, about available study related support. Please contact them as early as possible including before you enrol, to discuss your support needs.  

The Advice and Counselling Service supports students with a mental health condition (diagnosed or not) to access support and treatment. For study related mental health support please contact the Disability and Dyslexia Service. 

Extra Maintenance Loan for undergraduate students

If you have an underlying entitlement to claim benefits despite being a full time student because you have a disability or ongoing health issue, you may be eligible for a higher amount of Maintenance Loan than other students.  

This higher rate loan is referred to as the ‘Special Support’ Maintenance Loan. It is fully repayable and replaces the standard Maintenance Loan. 

Part of the ‘Special Support’ Maintenance Loan for living costs is paid as a 'special support element' for books, childcare, travel and equipment. This 'special support element’ is not taken into account as income by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) when calculating your means tested benefits. 

How much ‘Special Support’ Maintenance Loan you get depends on your household income: please read our Government student finance page for more information.  

You may be eligible for the Special Support Maintenance Loan if you: 

  • have a disability and qualify for the disability premium (this includes receiving PIP or being registered blind); or 
  • have been treated as having a limited capacity for work for 28 weeks; or 
  • are deaf and qualify for Disabled Students’ Allowances; or 
  • Qualify for a means tested benefit such as Universal Credit, Housing Benefit or income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or 
  • Are waiting to go back to a course having taken agreed time out from that course due to an illness or caring responsibility that has now ended

You will need to indicate in your application for Student Finance that you want to apply for the ‘Special Support’ higher rate Maintenance Loan by ticking the relevant boxes indicating that you have a disability and/or are receiving a relevant benefit and send supporting evidence, for example a benefit award letter, to show that you fit into one of the eligible categories listed above. If you need to check your eligibility, or need help with your Student Finance application, please  contact a Welfare Adviser. 

The Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)

Disabled Students Allowances are grants paid by Student Finance England (SFE) for additional costs you may have as a direct result of your disability, long-term health condition, mental-health condition, or specific learning difference such as dyslexia or dyspraxia. For example extra study related costs like specialist equipment or travel costs, or (in some circumstances) a non-medical helper. DSA is not income assessed and you don't have to repay it. 

DSA is available to ‘home’ undergraduates and postgraduates on either a full-time and part-time programme. DSAs will not be counted as income for welfare benefits, because they are paid for course related costs.  

Please see the webpage for information about what DSAs can pay for and how much they can be worth. What you can get depends on your individual needs. Please contact the Disability and Dyslexia Service for information about getting a needs assessment, and about what support is available. 

The Financial Assistance Fund

You may be eligible to apply to the Financial Assistance Fund (FAF) at Queen Mary. The FAF can only help with financial support for living costs, not for tuition fees. Awards are non-repayable grants. You must have taken your maximum entitlement of Student Finance Maintenance Loan (if you are eligible for one) in order to apply to FAF – this includes the income assessed portion of the loan if you are eligible. If you are only eligible for an EU Tuition Fee Loan, you can still apply for help from FAF.  

You can apply for a ‘standard award’ for help with general living costs. Your expected income will be compared against your reasonable expenditure to assess you for a Standard Award. If you have unforeseen or exceptional circumstances, you can be assessed for an ‘exceptional award’ to help you pay for the unforeseen costs or to help towards an unexpected and temporary loss of income.    

Consideration is made especially where the Disabled Student Allowance is unable to meet particular needs. If your disability or ongoing ill health prevents you from working part time and it’s causing you financial difficulty, you might apply for additional help.

Postgraduates can apply for non-standard help if there is an unforeseen financial emergency, or  special circumstances or costs that other students might not have. But you will need to show that you had made adequate provision to cover your essential costs. Please see the ‘How do I apply’ section of the  FAF webpage. You will also find eligibility requirements and application deadlines there.  

You can apply in each year of your programme, and as early in the academic year as you like, once you have fully enrolled. You can apply more than once each year if your circumstances have changed during that year.   
Help with your application   

If you need advice about completing your application, for example help explaining how your circumstances have affected your financial situation, contact a Welfare Adviser for a confidential appointment.     

Personal Independent Payment 

Personal independence payment (PIP) is a benefit for people who need help taking part in everyday life or who have mobility difficulties. You could get help with the extra costs of your care and mobility needs caused by your condition. How much you get is not based on your condition, but how your condition affects you. You need to have had your disability or illness for three months before being able to be awarded PIP and it must be expected to continue for at least another nine months. 

PIP is tax free and you do not need to have paid National Insurance contributions to be entitled to it. It is not affected by your earnings or other income or by any capital or savings you have. You can receive it whether you are in work or not. It is almost always paid in full on top of any other benefits or Student Finance that you receive.  

PIP is not affected by studying if you continue to have the same care and mobility needs. If your needs increase, you may be able to get more PIP but you should get advice before asking for an award to be reconsidered as you could put your existing award at risk. 

PIP is for you, not for a carer. You can qualify for PIP whether or not you have someone helping you. What matters is the effect your disability or ill health has on you and the help you need, not whether you actually get that help.  

You can spend your PIP on anything you like. PIP acts as a ‘passport’ for other types of help, such as the Motability Scheme.  

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for PIP you must need help with everyday living tasks or getting around. It is based on the level of help you need because of how your condition affects you. You do not need to be getting this help. 

You are assessed on the level of help you need with specific activities. These are ten daily living activities: 

  • Preparing food 
  • Taking nutrition 
  • Managing therapy or monitoring a health condition 
  • Washing and bathing 
  • Managing toilet needs or incontinence 
  • Dressing and undressing 
  • Communicating verbally 
  • Reading and understanding signs, symbols and words 
  • Engaging with other people face to face 
  • Making budgeting decisions 

These are two mobility activities:

  • Planning and following journeys 
  • Moving around 

To see if you qualify for PIP check out the Turn2Us Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Test guide. 

In the PIP assessment, a descriptor will apply to you if it reflects your ability for the majority of days (over 50%). This will be considered over a 12-month period; looking back three months and forward nine months.

How do I claim PIP?

If you want to apply for PIP we suggest you contact a Welfare Adviser. The adviser will be able to talk confidentially with you about how your disability or health condition affects daily living tasks, and explain the process of applying for PIP. The Welfare Adviser can help you think about how your disability or health condition affect the way you live and how best to explain this on the PIP2 application form. 
The Legal Advice Centre at Queen Mary offers help with PIP form filling at its regular welfare benefits clinic between October and March. Call 020 7882 3931 or email for an online appointment.

To start a claim for PIP you need to phone the DWP on 0800 917 2222.  You can call between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday and ask to be called back. You will be asked questions about your identity and basic information about your health condition or disability. Once the DWP have established that you have met the basic entitlement conditions, relating to age and residence, a “How your disability affects you” (PIP2) claim form and the PIP information booklet is sent to you by post. 

When filling out the PIP form you may find it useful to have with you: 

  • details of your medication or an up-to-date printed prescription list if you have one; and 
  • the names of any professionals who might be supporting you on a regular basis 

You will be asked to provide more detail in the “Extra Information” box so that you can explain how your health condition or disability affects your ability to carry out the activities; the difficulties you face and the help you need. Where you need help from another person you can tell DWP what kind of help you need and when you need it. Keep a copy of your completed form and any diary (recording your condition and help you have been receiving over the past few weeks) or other supporting evidence you send back with it.  

In addition, a copy will also be useful if you later wish to seek professional advice in relation to the decision made on your PIP claim as the adviser will need to see what you wrote on your claim form and what evidence you provided.

In most cases, you will then be asked to attend a consultation with a healthcare professional. If it is difficult for you to travel, ask to be seen at home. 

When answering, explain your difficulties as fully as you can. Don’t overestimate your ability to do things. 

If your condition varies, let them know and tell them what you are like on bad days as well as good days. 

What happens if my claim is refused?  

If your claim is refused, you can request a mandatory reconsideration and then an appeal. The Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre can advise you about this. 

Further information 

There is more information about PIP on the website.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit (UC) is the main income assessed welfare benefit to help pay for living costs. Most full-time students are not eligible to claim UC. There are some exceptions, for example if you have been assessed as having a limited capability for work and are receiving PIP.

If you are claiming Universal Credit before becoming a full-time student, you should continue your claim but let your work coach know you have become a full-time student and quickly make an application for PIP (if you are not receiving it). This is a requirement to be allowed to continue claiming UC while being a full-time student. The UC rules state that, you must not be in education – unless you are entitled to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and you have been assessed as having a limited capability for work. You must already have had a limited capability for work assessment as part of your existing claim. 

It is not possible for a full-time student who is not already claiming UC to get a work capability assessment.  

You can claim Universal Credit online 

If you have savings or capital over the upper limit of £16,000, you cannot get universal credit. 

The maximum amount is made up of a ‘standard allowance’ and ‘elements’, paid to cover different needs. 

The elements are: 

  • child element; 
  • housing costs element; 
  • work capability element; 
  • carer element; 
  • childcare costs element. 

How much is Universal Credit? 

Universal Credit is paid as a single payment each month.  

If you or your partner have student income, some will count as income for UC.  

You should advise your work coach if you are entitled to a Student Finance Maintenance Loan or Postgraduate Masters or Doctoral loan as part of this is taken into account and will reduce the amount of UC you may receive. For undergraduates the special support allowance amount of the Maintenance Loan is disregarded but the remainder of the loan is counted. For postgraduates 70 per cent of the Masters Loan is disregarded.

Student loans for maintenance count as income if you could get a loan by taking 'reasonable steps', even if you chose not to apply for one. This is the case even if the loan is reduced because of assessed parental contribution. 

As Universal Credit calculations can be complicated, you can request that your universal credit casework manager provides you with an email explanation of how your award has been calculated. You need to request this within one month of receiving that month's award notification. Once you receive your caseworker's explanation, if you still have questions contact a Welfare Adviser who can check your Universal Credit award is correct. 

Employment Support Allowance (ESA)

If you are not able to work due to illness or disability, you may be entitled to new style contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) while you are a full-time student but only if you have previously worked and paid sufficient National Insurance contributions.

It is no longer possible for most people to make new claims for income-related ESA. Income-related ESA has been replaced for new claimants by Universal Credit.

If the DWP decide you are eligible for contributory ESA you will then start a 13-week assessment phase (during this phase a basic allowance is paid, linked to age). During these 13 weeks JCP will normally carry out a work capability assessment and you will usually be asked to fill out an ESA50 ‘limited capability for work questionnaire’. You may be asked to attend a medical examination and a face-to-face meeting. 

You may be required to undertake work related activities to continue to claim and you will be given a personal action plan which you will need to follow. 

If your claim is refused you can request a mandatory reconsideration and then an appeal.

Contact a Welfare Adviser if you are experiencing problems with your claim. We can normally advise you on how to demonstrate that studying is different from work and on what supporting documents you will need. 

 More ESA information. 

Housing Benefit (HB) and the Local Housing Allowance (LHA)

Most people cannot make new claims for Housing Benefit. If you already have a claim for Housing Benefit, it is possible you might be able to continue claiming it while you study. Otherwise, unless you are in Local Authority temporary housing any help with housing costs will be paid through Universal Credit. If you have questions about Housing Benefit, please contact a Welfare Adviser.  

Taking time out of your studies because of ill health or disability

Please see our web pages on interrupting your studies, to help you think through your decision and the practical implications it may have, including how Student Finance is affected.

If you are on a full-time course, you are still treated as a full-time student unless you complete, abandon or are dismissed from that course. Therefore, even during periods of interruption or resitting out of attendance you continue to be a full-time student. Recent changes mean that you are unlikely to be able to make a new claim for Universal Credit as a full-time student. 

If you fall ill or acquire a disability while you are studying you may be able to claim certain welfare benefits. For example: 

  • You may be eligible for PIP if you are disabled and have had care or mobility needs for the past three months or more (or will have done by the time your claim is processed) and expect these to continue for at least another nine months 
  • If you have an illness or disability but have worked in the last two to three and have enough NI contributions, you may be able to claim new style ESA 
  • If you have recovered from your ill health and are waiting to re-join your course you may be able to claim Universal Credit. 
  • If you withdraw from your course, you are no longer a student and the normal benefit rules apply.

More information and support

  • The Disability and Dyslexia Service at Queen Mary advises students with any disability, mental health condition, or specific learning difference, about available study related support 
  • The Advice and Counselling Service supports students with a mental health condition (diagnosed or not) to access support and treatment. Study related support comes from the Disability and Dyslexia Service instead 
  • Disability Rights UK provides a variety of services including information for students with a disability such as detailed guidance on welfare benefits, Student Finance and access to higher education. You can call the Disabled students helpline or email: They also have a number of useful education related factsheets  
  • AccessAble  has detailed information about access to all kinds of places - hotels, restaurants, colleges, tourist attractions, libraries, hospitals, leisure centres, and shops. You can also use DisabledGo to look for a job, catch up on disability news, advertise events, post articles and join discussions.  
  • 'Transport if you're disabled' (, Transport for All website,TfL Dial-a-Ride and Transport for London (TfL) website. If you can’t use public transport TFL provides a free membership transport service. 
Back to top