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Not much assistance with NHS costs for students, is there ?

(17 Posts)
coldflange Tue 09-May-17 13:10:13

DS is in his first year at Uni. He eventually got round to completing the form for help with NHS costs .(dental, glasses, prescriptions etc)

His only income is his maintenance loan, a small amount of money monthly from me, and a small bursary to congratulate him for exceeding the target entrance grades (a one off)

He has just received his certificate back and it's not great.

He will get no help with prescriptions or routine dental treatment. If he requires a lengthy course of treatment the max will be £116. His eye tests are to pay for, but he won't have to pay more than £77 for glasses or contacts (specsavers glasses are only about that price anyway).

It just doesn't seem very fair to me. His course doesn't allow much time for work (he will work in summer when he comes home), his loan will be paid back at a higher rate of interest than mortgages etc.

He doesn't spend frivolously. The money I give him covers food, expenses for uni, a small amount of socialising (there can't be much left over).

Has anyone else been similarly disappointed by this aspect of student life?

Gannet123 Tue 09-May-17 14:00:50

I'm afraid that's the nature of NHS charges - it takes a pretty low income to get exemptions. They weigh up income as against expenditure, so you've got to bear in mind that, for example, student accommodation costs are often cheaper than for other people (particularly if they include utilities), and if he's in uni halls they won't run for the full year - presumably you give him free accommodation during vacations, and I expect you feed him as well, so that's an expenditure he doesn't have. He doesn't pay tax or NI on his non-earned income and he's exempt from council tax. He will get discounts on travel and other things, because he is a student. He doesn't have any children to feed or childcare to organise. He has you as a back up - he's not actually financially independent, because the money you give him isn't fixed income (you could choose to give him more - obviously the feasibility of that choice depends on your own financial circumstances but the system assumes that if he needs a bit of extra help, you as his parent will find a way of giving it to him). One thing that graduates often experience moving from a student income to a graduate one is that they don't actually have that much extra income, once the savings you get from being a student are taken away.
Not to say that I don't think students should get help with NHS costs - personally, I'd like us to go back to free prescriptions and dental for everyone. But the threshold is very low - most people who are entitled to claim help have no money for socialising - not even a 'small amount'. It's not an issue of student life; it's an issue of austerity and government policy.

coldflange Tue 09-May-17 14:29:07

Yes Gannet I can see those points.

Fingers crossed his teeth stay in tip top shape for another 4 years, and his glasses prescription doesn't change too much.

It's no wonder that young people don't become independent until mid twenties if they are still reliant on their parents.

eatyourveg Tue 09-May-17 17:17:21

I thought students got free prescriptions based on having a low income - ds certainly got them free a couple of years ago when he was at uni - confused

coldflange Tue 09-May-17 18:34:59

It is now based on income.

His income is listed (loan, bank of mum, bursary)
His outgoings - rent
Then :the amount that the government say you need to live on
The difference between the two is clearly too much .

So he will be paying full price for prescriptions and dental check ups. This will only be useful if he is unfortunate enough to need a large amount of dental work, or regular transport to nhs appointments.

coldflange Tue 09-May-17 18:36:32

I don't think I am that generous with the amount I give him monthly either. Might trim it back next year and see what happens grin

Mindgone Wed 10-May-17 00:19:32

I don't understand how a loan can be classed as 'income'!

bigbluebus Wed 10-May-17 00:24:21

Yes, we were also surprised by this when DS applied 2 years ago. We were clearly giving him too much as a parental contribution. No allowance seemed to be made for travel expenses incurred travelling to/from home - DS was flying! Thankfully our dentist had accepted him as NHS (we were all private) so he booked appointments when he was home but paid the same price as we do! He hasn't needed any prescriptions and doesn't wear glasses - but really should go for an eye test as he hasn't had one since school.

It does seem ridiculous that for minor treatment DS pays the same as his DF who has a good job.

Hadenoughtoday Wed 10-May-17 00:25:08

My daughter didn't get anything! She is in London uni paying in excess of £10k for rent and last year only received minimum loan. She had a job during the summer holidays to top up her money but rest comes from bank of mum and dad. We pay for her dentist and prescriptions - it's so frustrating when her weekly rent is more than half my mortgage (I've worked hard to pay my mortgage off and am nearly there)

TheDrsDocMartens Wed 10-May-17 05:10:02

I don't get help with nhs costs and I'm a student.

OliviaStabler Wed 10-May-17 05:26:51

Could he secure a part time job to boost his income?

treaclesoda Wed 10-May-17 05:30:59

I don't think this is a new thing sadly. I was at university in the mid 90s and wasn't able to claim help with prescription costs etc. I remember filling in the forms and being declined and ringing up to ask why and got the answer mentioned above, that I wasn't considered financially independent and that if I needed more money I should ask my parents for it. hmm

eatyourveg Wed 10-May-17 14:59:30

I wonder how ds got them then as he was in london 3 years ago and got them - we made up the difference in his loan to what it would have been had we no income using the sfe calculator

coldflange Wed 10-May-17 20:50:19

I don't know if it's a new thing or not.

DS maintenance LOAN is the minimum. Fortunately his halls are pretty cheap so that covers his rent (utilities incl)

In London rents are a lot higher so perhaps your DS available income was less after their calculations.

It just seems unfair to me. he's not taking a 4 year science course for fun - and incurring debts of £50,000 (or more).

In comparison to say, a lone parent working a few hours a d claiming sufficient to tax credits or whatever might get free prescriptions and dental etc. I am NOT benefit bashing - I was in that position myself.

By keeping students beholden to their parents they aren't really growing up amd being totally independent.

Gannet123 Thu 11-May-17 12:10:14

I don't disagree about keep students financially dependent in principle- but that's the way our whole system works, and has done for a long time. Any system that has means testing for access to any sorts of funds, or that does not fund a student for 12 months a year, is assuming that parents will pick up the slack. If part of your son's income comes from you, and if he is getting food and accommodation from you for part of the year, he is financially dependent on you. When I was a student, 30 years ago, my parents paid all my living costs, because their income was just over the means tested amount. Before that, with universal grants and the right to claim benefits in vacations, it was different and in some ways better - but the costs of that would be astronomical with the current volume of students attending university.
And there is a fairness issue - my first year at university was the final year you could claim unemployment benefit during the summer vacation, which I did - but I spent it on frivolities and saved some of it because my parents were happy to accommodate and feed me during the summer vacation and didn't ask for rent - so the unemployment money was my discretionary spending money which meant I didn't need to get a part-time job (I just pretended I was looking for one). Looking back, I really don't think that was a good use of taxpayers' money, and I'd have been better off getting a job. Similarly, if a student has wealthy parents who are bankrolling a comfortable lifestyle for them, why should the taxpayer pay their NHS costs for them?
My ideal picture would be one of all students getting a grant which keeps them all on an equal footing - but with our history and culture I think that's a pipe dream. Otherwise, it has to go back to an evaluation of what counts as a low income, and that will vary circumstance to circumstance - many students are not on a low income.

swingofthings Thu 11-May-17 12:37:15

But to be fair, how much should students, unless they have special health needs, in which case there are benefits that can be applied to, need in terms of treatment?

Dental: One check up a year should be enough. At that age, if well looked after, shouldn't require much treatment.
Prescription: again, unless a medical condition, how often would this be required? Once a year maybe twice, total just over £15?
Eyes: Eye tests are available for £10, sometimes free at supermarkets, and again, should be required more than every couple of years. If new glasses are required, then it a bigger investment, but no more than the cost of 2 or 3 evenings out, so really don't see it as unreasonable.

silkpyjamasallday Thu 11-May-17 12:48:29

When I was at uni the pharmacist tried to charge me for the contraceptive pill! I explained I was a student and that contraception is free on the NHS anyway. My eyes and teeth went to shit while I was at uni as I simply couldn't afford to pay for their upkeep and I am suffering for it now. I was in London with rent of over £10k a year and a maintenance loan of just under £4K a year.

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