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Many nursing students could be owed thousands in benefits

RCN urges students to check they are receiving payments they are entitled to after uncovering DWP miscalculations, particularly for those with children

RCN urges students to check they are receiving payments they are entitled to after uncovering DWP miscalculations, particularly for those with children

Many nursing students could be thousands of pounds out of pocket because the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is failing to calculate their benefits correctly, the RCN claims.

One nursing student was awarded £9,525 by the DWP in a one-off payment after welfare officers at the RCN found her benefits had been miscalculated throughout her course.

RCN study finds half of students with children are owed money from DWP

In a wider study by the RCN, about half of nursing students with children were found to be owed money, after their Universal Credit had been underpaid

RCN urges students to check they are receiving payments they are entitled to after uncovering DWP miscalculations, particularly for those with children

Photo of the outside of the Department of Work and Pensions
Picture: Alamy

Many nursing students could be thousands of pounds out of pocket because the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is failing to calculate their benefits correctly, the RCN claims.

One nursing student was awarded £9,525 by the DWP in a one-off payment after welfare officers at the RCN found her benefits had been miscalculated throughout her course.

RCN study finds half of students with children are owed money from DWP

In a wider study by the RCN, about half of nursing students with children were found to be owed money, after their Universal Credit had been underpaid by thousands of pounds.

‘This could have a significant impact on students who are already trying to get by on a reduced income,’ RCN senior welfare adviser Claire Cannings told Nursing Standard. ‘Sadly, although it is concerning, it’s not surprising. These things are complicated, but DWP should be getting it right. We found that various DWP offices were a law unto themselves and were making fairly arbitrary calculations.’

After a social media campaign highlighting the issue, the RCN welfare service was inundated with requests from students for help with their finances.

Students missing out on about £2,000 a year

The RCN recently analysed the incomes of about 100 nursing students with children and calculated their correct monthly allowances, considering loans, bursaries, the NHS Learning Support Fund payment and Universal Credit according to the DWP’s rules. It found that half of those students were not paid the correct monthly amounts, with students losing out on about £2,000 a year on average.

‘Not only will people be losing out on money, but if they are denied Universal Credit because of a miscalculation, this could mean their children miss out on free school meals, or a school uniform grant in Scotland. It has a real impact,’ said Ms Cannings.

‘We have engaged with the DWP and it says it has rolled out training to staff on this, but the truth is that it has a high turnover and errors are being made frequently.’

In the meantime, the RCN says that anyone who has concerns about their student income calculation should contact its welfare team for advice.

DWP admits there is ‘scope for further analysis’ of nursing student income

A spokesperson for the DWP told Nursing Standard it is ‘not aware from current available information that nursing student income is causing a widespread issue’.

‘However, there is scope to conduct further analysis to see whether there is evidence to suggest it’s an area that requires additional support,’ they said.

Advice for nursing students: are you receiving the payments you are entitled to?

Which nursing students may be eligible for Universal Credit?

  • Those with responsibility for a child
  • Those who are living with a partner who is eligible for Universal Credit
  • Those with a disability

Source: Government guidance on Universal Credit and students

Could my payments be wrong?

Entitlement to bursaries and benefits varies depending on whether you live in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, so first confirm what applies in your country. Other factors that affect payments include whether you are a single parent, you have a disability or are living with a partner.

Your payment may be incorrect if the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is taking incomes into account that they shouldn’t be. For example, in Scotland the Initial Expenses Allowance, Single Parent Allowance and registered childcare costs should all be disregarded in the calculation. In Wales the Parents’ Learning Allowance should be disregarded and in Northern Ireland the Parents’ Learning Allowance, clinical placement expenses and registered childcare costs should be disregarded in the calculation.

How do I get help?

If you believe the DWP is including any of the above allowances in your calculation, you will need to make a request in your Universal Credit journal for a breakdown of how your entitlement has been calculated.

If you are having problems getting your Universal Credit coach to disregard the appropriate elements of your student income, call the RCN and ask for a referral to the RCN Welfare Service for specialist benefits advice.


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