Pregnancy and maternity for students: a guide to finance and benefits
Finding out that you are pregnant when you are studying can be a daunting prospect but most universities have student support services and are able to offer advice about your options for deferring studies or making special arrangements in relation to deadlines and examinations. Student Finance England offers tuition fee loans for the length of your course plus one additional year if needed. You should be able to use this if you need take time out of university part-way through the academic year and then return to complete your course.
Extra Student Finance for Parents
Additional maintenance loan: If you are a single parent or you have a partner who is also a full-time student then you can get and additional amount included in your maintenance loan to help towards your living costs.
Parents Learning Allowance is available to full-time undergraduate students (and full-time students studying initial teacher training). It is paid to you by Student Finance if you have dependent children. You can get up to £1,669 a year, depending on your household income. You do not have to pay it back unless you leave your course early.
Childcare grant: If you have dependent children aged under 15 you can get up to 85% of childcare costs. The maximum amount you can receive is £164.70 for one child or £282.36 if you have two or more children. You do not have to pay it back unless you leave your course early.
Special Support Grant: (Only available if you started your course before 31 July 2016) This is an additional non-repayable grant that is paid to students in certain circumstances such as single parents or couples who are both students and one or both of you is responsible for a child. The Special Support Grant does not count as income for other means-tested benefits, meaning your benefit award will not be reduced if you receive it.
Remember that your university or college may also offer bursaries, scholarships or other kinds of financial help, it’s always worth checking with them too.
If you are a part-time student then your benefits are usually not affected by your studying meaning that the normal rules on benefits apply, however there are extra conditions for jobseeker’s allowance.
Maternity allowance is a benefit that is available if you are pregnant or you have just had a child. To qualify you must have a recent history of working. If eligible, you can receive up to £148.68 per week for 39 weeks.
To be eligible for maternity allowance you need to have worked for 26 weeks (earning at least £30 per week) in the 66 weeks before your baby is due (this can include self-employment). The 26 weeks work do not have to be continuous and they do not have to be for the same employer. If you have just found out that you are pregnant you may be able to seek work and work for long enough to qualify for maternity allowance. To find out more about maternity allowance read our article.
Other Benefits You May Qualify For
You can no longer make a new claim for income support, jobseekers allowance, employment support allowance, tax credits or housing benefit – these benefits have been replaced with Universal Credit (UC) unless you are already claiming these or fall into one of the exceptions listed on the gov.uk website. So unless this applies to you, you will have to make a claim for UC instead.
You cannot claim universal credit if you are a full-time student (including if you have deferred your studies) unless you are responsible for a child or young person. This means that most students cannot claim UC until after their child is born.
Student loans for maintenance count as income for UC purposes and this applies if you could get a loan but choose not to apply for one. The maximum loan that you could get is taken into account as income which may reduce or stop your UC award. Your universal credit award can include housing element payments if you are liable to pay rent.
Normally full-time students are excluded from claiming income support (including during deferred years and holidays), however there is an exception which allows students to claim this benefit if they are a single parent with a child under the age of 5. Some of your student loan and grants count as income and this can reduce or stop your award.
*Only relevant if you have an existing claim for Housing Benefit* You can receive housing benefit if you are a student and you are receiving Income Support, Income Based Jobseekers Allowance or Income Related Employment and Support Allowance. You can also qualify if you are a student and you are responsible for a child.
You may be prevented from receiving housing benefit for any weeks where you are not occupying your home outside of your period of study. (This only applies if your main reason for occupying your home is to enable to you to attend your course.)
*Only relevant if you have an existing Tax Credits claim* Eligibility for tax credits is not affected by student status, so students responsible for a child who have a low household income are likely to qualify. Student loan income is ignored when working out tax credit entitlement and so is parents’ learning allowance, but some other grants are taken into account as income.
Child benefit is not affected by being a student or receiving student finance.
Sure Start Maternity Grant
The Sure Start Maternity Grant is a one-off payment of £500 for parents who are receiving a low income benefit. Eligibility is not affected by your student status or student finance.
Council tax reduction
Full-time students are exempt from paying council tax, however if you are a part-time student with a low income you may be eligible for council tax reduction to help you pay your council tax bill. Contact your local authority to find out how to apply for council tax reduction.
Free prescriptions and NHS dental treatment
You are entitled to free NHS dental treatment and free prescriptions while you are pregnant and for one year after the baby is born. To apply fill out the Maternity Exemption form, available from your doctor or midwife.
Health Start vouchers
Healthy Start vouchers can be used to buy fruit, vegetables, vitamins and milk. They are available to expectant mothers and parents of young children. There are no special rules for students but to be eligible you must be receiving a low income benefit.