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Pregnancy and maternity for students: a guide to finance and benefits

This article is about students in higher education and looks at the rules for student finance in England.

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 may offer a tuition fee loan for the length of your course, and it is possible they will offer one additional year if needed due to pregnancy, but this is decided on an individual basis. You may be able to use this if you need to take time out of university part-way through the academic year and then return to complete your course. 

Extra Student Finance for Parents 

Once you are a parent, you may find that you are eligible for additional student finance. You can ask student support services about this. There’s more information on the different types of help available from UCAS.

Remember that your university or college may also offer bursaries, scholarships or other kinds of financial help. It is always worth checking with them too. 

Part-time Students 

If you are a part-time student then your benefits are usually not affected by your studying . The normal rules on benefits apply, although there may be extra conditions for Jobseeker’s Allowance.  Otherwise, look at our information on benefits for parents.

Maternity 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 £151.20 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. You can claim maternity allowance and continue with your course – it is not affected by student status.

Other Benefits You May Qualify For 

You can no longer make a new claim for Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, tax credits or Housing Benefit. These benefits have been replaced with Universal Credit (UC), unless you are already claiming them or you have recently been entitled to severe disability premium (which is part of some of the older benefits, so this won’t apply if you were not getting these). Unless this applies to you, you will have to make a claim for UC instead.

Universal Credit 

You cannot claim UC if you are a full-time student (including if you have deferred your studies) unless you are responsible for a child or young person (there are some other exceptions for certain disabled students and some young people estranged from their family and in non-advanced education). This means that most students cannot claim UC until after their child is born. 

Student loans for maintenance count as income for UC purposes (apart from £110 per month which should be ignored from your total student income).  You will be treated as having the maximum loan you could get even if you could get a loan but choose not to apply for one. Student income may reduce or stop your UC award, but shouldn’t be taken into account for most of the long holiday, if your course has one (you may need to reapply if your UC has stopped). Your universal credit award can include housing element payments if you have to pay rent. 

Income Support 

Almost all new claims for Income Support have been replaced by Universal Credit (see above). If you are single, have a child under the age of 5 and have an existing claim for Income Support when you become a full time student, then an exception applies in these circumstances and you are able to continue with your claim for Income Support.  Otherwise, full-time students are excluded from claiming income support (including during deferred years and holidays). Some of your student loan and grants count as income and this can reduce or stop your award. 

Housing Benefit 

Only relevant if you have an existing claim for Housing Benefit or in limited circumstances where you can make a new claim: You can receive housing benefit if you are a student and you are receiving Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance. You can also qualify if you are a student and you are responsible for a child.  

During the summer vacation, you may be prevented from receiving housing benefit for any weeks when you are away from your term-time home, unless you would live there even if you were not studying, or your grant or loan covers the summer vacation too. 

Tax Credits 

Usually only relevant if you have an existing Tax Credit 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 income (grants and loans) are not taken into account for tax credits. If you already get any tax credits (child tax credit or working tax credit), you can stay on these and make changes to them, such as starting to get child tax credit if you already get working tax credit, or adding a child to a tax credit claim.

Child Benefit 

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, but both of these are likely to affect your eligibility to low income benefits, meaning you may not qualify for the grant. 

Council tax reduction  

Full-time students are exempt from paying council tax. 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, pulses 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.

This advice applies in England. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ, as student support is different in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Please call our helpline for more details.

If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.

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