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Benefits and studying

(27 Posts)
GoldilocksAndTheThreePears Thu 18-May-17 20:44:02

Hopefully someone may know something on this as google is drawing a blank!

I'm disabled, I currently get ESA support group and PIP both parts enhanced, which lead to me getting HB. Not at all how I want to live but far too ill to work. I'm stagnating, unable to go out, no social life, lonely. I used to study with the OU a few years back and I'm thinking of maybe continuing but this is where I hit a wall. I'd need to claim tuition fee loans but I'd be living where I am now so no living cost loans or grants or anything. I've spoken at length with OU and they offer lots of support for disabled students which would really help such as phone rather than face-to-face tutorials and doing exams at home with support.

I'm worried that this would mean I would lose disability benefits. The course would be part time as OU is only part time, completely done at home. I can't find any info whether DWP would see being able to study 16 hours a week (at home, lying down as I struggle to sit, using laptop only as I can't use a pen so not living the life of riley) as being able to work part or full time. I would definitely declare to DWP that I was studying, not trying to get it under the radar.

All the info I find online is either out of date or about full time brick-uni students. Does anyone know where I could get advice? I'm worried even asking DWP or ATOS about it will be put on my file and lead to me losing ESA.

I just want a reason to get out of bed each day.

GoldilocksAndTheThreePears Thu 18-May-17 20:47:02

Oh and sorry if wrong place, wasn't sure where this would fit.

GoodbyeNormal Thu 18-May-17 20:47:26

You can claim DLA and support group ESA while studying. It's possible they'll be a bit "yeah well doesn't that show you're capable of working" but it's within the rules to claim.

Leatherboundanddown Fri 19-May-17 12:10:38

You shouldn't lose anything you are already claiming if you enrol with the OU. One thing to check though is that if you are planning on taking any loans for maintenance as well as fees for some benefits this is classed as income. Presumably you would not be taking these out though?

It is possible to study full time with the OU, you just take 120 credits per year and two modules alongside each other. This way you are classed as a full time student and exempt from paying council tax. However I would not recommend doing this in your first year or at all if your health needs are considerable/you are likely to become unwell if take too much on.

The OU has great support for students with disibilites, one of my ex tutors was also a one to one tutor and you can get home visits/home exams etc. You can also benefit from taking part remotely in the course forums and facebook groups. You do not need to be physically there in person to get lots out of it. What are you going to study?

Leatherboundanddown Fri 19-May-17 12:11:28

Also if you contact the OU directly they should be able to get an advisor to call you back with up to date info.

Rockchick1984 Fri 19-May-17 12:17:32

If you are studying with the OU then the only student finance you can get is for the tuition fees, there is no maintenance loans for part time students so there is no reason why it would affect your benefits.

GoldilocksAndTheThreePears Fri 19-May-17 15:29:15

Thanks all that's what I came up with after running around the net! So much out of date info now. One thing I've discovered is if they feel me studying goes against their evidence to show I can't work I'd lose ESA so if they feel I couldn't concentrate for 20 mins it would go against that. It's so very difficult because although OU is 16 hours of study a week my plan would be to maybe do more on weeks I don't have major flare ups and less on ones I do.

I've requested my ESA medical report which was apparently a huge fuss for the person I spoke to but I have a right to it. Reason being I have both physical and mental health issues and I'm not sure what they have accepted or not and which areas have gotten me into the support group. In the course of this I discovered my next assessment is November this year so something to panic about. People worry about benefit cheats taking all the money but don't realise this system does full medicals every 6 months to 2 years for everyone on ESA even though PIP awarded me 10 years as my condition won't improve! Sigh.

I won't apply if the medical report shows they've awarded based on evidence contrary to the perceived view of study at that level. I don't ever want to be a benefit cheat, I hate living on them, but I just want a reason to exist right now.

GoldilocksAndTheThreePears Fri 19-May-17 15:31:46

Oh and I also found OU is only part time, even if you do a full time course load the entire thing is only classed as part time so thankfully no maintenance loans to deal with. Some people have had issues claiming only for tuition fees and not the maintenance loans and being classes as denying themselves income- even though the loan is a loan and would result in debt, their living circumstances don't change in any way. It's such a quagmire.

Leatherboundanddown Fri 19-May-17 15:40:22

It CAN be classed as full time if you study 120 credits per academic year alongside each other so if you want documentation to exempt you from paying council tax the OU are happy to provide it to you (I did this for 2 out of the 5 years of my OU degree)

GoldilocksAndTheThreePears Fri 19-May-17 15:52:07

Oh weird Ok I didn't know that. When i spoke to them they said no way it would count as full time as they are a part time institution and as such wouldn't accept funding from anyone who had applied for a full time loan. However I know physically and mentally I couldn't cope with anything more than 60 points a year, I only know that much as I did a year in 2008 or so back before I ever got ill. Council tax isn't a worry as I pay a discounted rate. As it stands right now my benefit income covers rent, bills, taxis for health things and leaves about £10 extra per month for food and such (I do have some savings and I live very stringent).

I know I could do this study with my health issues as I've spoken to them about the support offered such as taking exams at home and phone tutorials as I couldn't attend them. However I know DWP and ATOS wouldn't take that into account so it's hard to work out whether I'm allowed to do this.

GoldilocksAndTheThreePears Fri 19-May-17 15:55:34

Oh and I'd be studying sociology. I already did the first course (was DD101 now changed to DD102 but I'm told I can still count mine as DD102) I used to work with children and was aiming towards early childhood studies or something like that however I'm no longer able to do that work, no way of knowing if ever I'd be well enough to. But hopefully studying something I enjoy would be good for my mental health and possibly lead to work in the future. I'm not very clever so IT and maths and such are out but I find social studies fascinating.

Cakedoesntjudge Fri 19-May-17 16:04:41

I did my first 2 years full time with the OU and you're both right to an extent! The OU will only accept part time student loans and no maintenance loans as they class themselves as a part time institution.

However, local councils have differing rules for student exemptions. My local council classes anything above 90 credits/year as full time so I qualified for the exemption despite the ou being a part time institution if that makes sense? It's all a bit of a headache!!

If you can do it then I would smile I have one year to go and I can't wait. I've been stuck in a retail job I hate for years because it's flexible and I didn't have any qualifications. When ExDP left I signed up and now every time I have a bad day I just think "it's ok, one step closer to being able to leave and find a job I love" - it helps when you feel rubbish and so I think it would help you similarly!

Hope you get it sorted flowers

Leatherboundanddown Fri 19-May-17 16:15:43

Mine was sociology too, it honestly changed my life and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I still speak frequently to the friends I made online during that degree.

GoldilocksAndTheThreePears Fri 19-May-17 23:51:18

Thanks grin that's exactly what I'm going for, enjoyment and a reason to even get up each day and a chance to talk to people. I can go weeks without talking to anyone except my dad drops off some food everymonth or so.

Now I just wait for the medical report and try and work out if studying goes against whatever judgement they made.

backaftera2yearbreak Sat 20-May-17 08:25:30

moonjar Sat 20-May-17 11:30:38

Don't forget to apply for disabled students allowance. You can get money towards a support worker/mentor, printing costs, equipment and travel costs. It is really easy to apply for compared to benefits. Also if you are on a low income most universities have a hardship/support fund and they generally prioritise disabled/mature students so it's likely you'd get something. The OU should have a student advice service which would be the best point of advice. I wouldn't seek advice from the DWP or council, for the reasons you say.

I have done part time study whilst on benefits and I've never had any issues. It's a good way to stay active without the full demand of a job. Universities tend to be very sympathetic with resits or coursework extensions if you have a relapse and have good medical evidence to back it up.

GoldilocksAndTheThreePears Sat 20-May-17 18:58:43

Thanks backafterayearbreak for the link to the site I'll have a good read through that.

I've taken a look at disabled students allowance moonjar but I don't know if any applies to me. I've used PIP to buy a printer with a scanner as I need to scan things to send to get a blue badge and bus pass so I can use that. I also plan to use my PIP to buy some grips to put on pens to see if I can write some notes as right now I can't really hold a pen. I do need to see if I need to use discs still, I know I did back in 2009 when I did a year, lots of the course was on disc but I don't have a usable disc drive or dvd player or anything. I think OU offers support with regards to extensions and exams at home.

Thanks all for replies, given me lots more to consider. I want to do this by the book or else I risk my home- because my HB is only because I get ESA, I think if I lose that I lose HB and my PIP alone wouldn't cover even half.I wish they could just see this as someone wanting to better themselves and improve their life but I sadly know they'll see it as ammo against me.

Becca19962014 Sat 20-May-17 20:19:27

Usually it'll say in the course description what sort of equipment it's necessary for you to have access to, they don't offer help with funding that as its a requirement for everyone.

Extensions are rarely longer than a couple of days because courses have non assessed as well as assessed coursework and exams at home are very very rare because of the cost of invigilation and exam requirements. Have you spoken to people involved in the course you want to do? Got information specifically for that? I found the disability advisors were helpful, however, the course I was doing didn't offer what I'd been told was possible.

Have you considered doing a less intensive course like 30 credits? (assuming those are possible for the course you're looking at) 60 is a lot of work. When I went back I was forced to give up the course because although I'd studied before at that level and been in work I just couldn't cope with it due to deterioration in my condition. Obviously I still needed to repay the loan I had as well despite not completing (the rules then were course must be paid for by end, it might be different now though).

By the way the ESA reassessment dates are just random dates on the computer, you can be reassessed at any time for any reason. Right now a lot of people in support group are being reassessed because of the much lower rate of work group and changes to criteria in March. I mention in case you find an esa50 appearing on your doorstep in the next couple of weeks. I'm on a disability forum and it's been inundated with people in support group being sent esa50 forms early.

Leatherboundanddown Sat 20-May-17 20:42:26

Op try not to worry for all the DD courses you will not need any specialist equipment other than a laptop.

I have had extensions going weeks/months if I needed them. In my experience they are extremely flexible if you are honest about what you need and keep your tutor informed. I do not have a disibility myself but two close course mates did and I know their needs were adequately met within the social sciences, including home visits.

GoldilocksAndTheThreePears Sat 20-May-17 22:18:39

Oh gosh that's scary about ESA. Such a shitty system. I expected an assessment after a year but it just never came, I definitely don't assume it'll take as long as Nov but now I know the very max time I have is til Nov, if that makes sense.

The course I want to do is 60 credits a year, no possibility of 30. It's a degree with a specified path. I don't think there are many exams during it, definitely none the module I'd start with which is the second in the course. The study I already did was 60 points and runs out in 8 years so I have 8 years to do 5 years of course, if that works out.

I'd be getting a student loan from the same place as all students at brick unis so paying back would be that method, taken from paycheques once you earn over £21k.

I've just taken a look and it's possible to do the entire degree with just end-of-module-assessments no exams. This route would be for the broad Social Science degree not one of the specialised ones which is fine. The non exam route would only mean doing a psychology course one year instead of the crime one I like the look of but that is not the end of the world.

GoldilocksAndTheThreePears Sat 20-May-17 22:19:58

I'd need to try and get a workable laptop though, mine has no disc drive and only stays on for about an hour before overheating. Actually that may be workable if I save constantly.

Becca19962014 Sat 20-May-17 22:55:25

Yeh I know someone who had support group for a month and then got reassessed. It is very shitty. i can't cope with post at all now because of it. I didn't mean to scare you, sorry, I was mentioning it so you were aware. Support group is very short term.

Anyway, I hadn't realised it was only and option of 60 credits. That's a bit annoying as if you can't complete you lose that funding being available at a later date. The funding wouldn't be for 8 years on that loan, it would be however long you need to complete plus a year so if you have already completed level one it would be however long level two and three would take part time at 60 credits a year it would be four years, in a row, (so 5 for funding) it can't be split so you'd need to complete in that time.

I hope you can do it and it goes well.

I'm sorry for worrying you about ESA.

Leatherboundanddown Sat 20-May-17 22:58:50

I did mine on a netbook with no disc drive. All the audios and videos are available as online links x

GoldilocksAndTheThreePears Sun 21-May-17 07:00:26

becca no sorries! It's sadly the life of being disabled on benefits, expecting and fearing the next assessment. Never mind this makes you a lot more ill all the stress, it gives them more chance to meet their targets to turf people off of benefits. The 8 years refers to how long I have to use that 60 point course in a qualification, not funding, sorry I wasn't clear. And I've only done the first course of year one so I have one more year of 1, then 2 of 2, 2 of 3, so five years of study to complete in 8 years. I believe the student loan would be done year by year so I could take a break if needed but not too long due to the 8 year thing. Ideally I'd like to keep going but life has a way of mucking up plans!

leather thankyou for that I had assumed it was online but wasn't 100% sure. I don't intend to claim anything more than I need so if my crap overheating laptop with do, I won't claim for a new one.

Becca19962014 Sun 21-May-17 11:01:14

The student loans company doesn't allow breaks for financing. You're given a date by which you must complete your studies, yours would be five years from when you begin (you could extend by a year though). They're strict on timeframes, and it's difficult to transfer to another degree if you've done more than first year.

Sorry that was what I was referring to in terms of time - not very well I know. Hope I've explained better now!

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