Working out means-tested funding

Entitlement to parts of the funding depend on the level of your household income. You will need to know who is in your household and what income is included in the means-test before you can work out your funding.

Independent status and funding

Both Student Finance England (SFE) and the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) assume that you are the financial responsibility of your parents unless you can prove otherwise. This is up to the age of 25 for SFE and age-unlimited for the NHS. The following circumstances are ones that indicate that you are ‘independent’ from your parents:

  • if you have had a child
  • if you have been married or in a civil partnership
  • if you have been in care
  • if you have supported yourself for 36 months
  • if you have fallen out permanently with your parents.

This is not an exhaustive list, and you may wish to seek further advice if you feel that you should be assessed as independent.

What evidence do I need to prove self-support for 36 months?

You will need to provide evidence of earnings or benefit receipt for 36 months prior to the start of your course. The 36 months do not have to be consecutive; they can include any month where you earned enough.

There is no fixed amount but, as a rough guide, earning more than £7,000 per year may be seen as sufficient. Evidence could include wage slips and benefit award notices.

What if I am estranged from my parents?

There are many causes of estrangement, from disagreement over the decision to study at university to a negative family reaction to a student’s sexuality or gender identity.

Students are classed as estranged if they are ‘irreconcilably estranged’ from their parents on or before the first day of the academic year for which they are applying for funding, and usually have to have had no contact with their parents for at least 12 months before the first day of the academic year. However, this second rule may not apply in exceptional circumstances.

To claim independence on the basis of estrangement, evidence can include:

  • a letter from a social worker (if you have one) or a police or social services report
  • a letter from an advice worker, personal tutor or teacher, confirming your circumstances
  • a letter from your doctor to confirm your circumstances.

If you claimed Income Support when you were under 18 years old, a letter from your local Jobcentre Plus office showing that you received benefits because of your situation.

If you would like more information about evidence of estrangement for the NHSBSA or SFE, please contact a UWE Bristol Money Adviser. You can call the Money Advice Line on +44 (0)117 32 85432 on a Wednesday between 14:00 and 16:00 once you have applied to UWE Bristol.

SFE and UWE Bursary means test

If you are under 25 on 1 September, SFE will want the income details of your parents unless you are considered as ‘independent’.

If you are dependent on your parents, SFE will want income details for both parents if they are living together. If they are not living together, SFE will want the details of the parent with whom you have lived most recently. If your parent is living with a partner, civil partner or spouse, then SFE will need their details too.

If you are over 25 you will need to provide the income details for your partner or spouse. If you are an independent student under the age of 25, only the income of your spouse or civil partner is included. If you are single and independent, then SFE will just use your income in the means-test.

All students: SFE will request an estimate of your unearned taxable income for the coming academic year.

What income counts for the SFE means-test?

For parents or partners, SFE will need the gross taxable income for the financial year 2014/15 for 2016 entry, and 2015/16 for 2017 entry. For you, SFE will need an estimate of unearned taxable income for the calendar year as you start your studies. SFE ignore income from part-time earnings (except job release or secondment earnings).

What if that earning has dropped?

If your household income has dropped by 15% since the financial year used for the assessment, let SFE know and they may be able to increase your funding by using the ‘current’ financial year. This is known as Current Year Assessment. See the SFE website for further details.

What income counts for NHS income assessment?

For the NHS bursary, the NHSBSA will work out the maximum amount that you are eligible for by adding the basic bursary to any additional weeks’ allowance. It will then work out what amount of bursary to pay you by looking at your household income.

You are usually considered financially dependent on your parents regardless of your age.

If you are not independent, the NHSBSA will add parental income to your income when calculating the level of bursary you will receive. If your parents are no longer living together, the NHSBSA will need the income details of the parent with whom you live or have lived most recently. Step-parent income is ignored.

If you are independent and living with a partner, the NHSBSA will need details of their income also.

If you are single and independent, you are likely to receive maximum funding.

In all cases, you will need to provide an estimate of your income for the academic year. Part-time earnings are ignored when working out your funding.

What income counts?

The income details that the NHSBSA request from parents or partners is their gross taxable income for the previous tax year (ie 2015/16 financial year for the 2016/17 academic year). They will ask you for details of income that you estimate you will receive during the academic year. This does not include earnings from part-time work, benefits or tax credits. Few students have personal income that affects the level of their bursary.

If your family income is less than £24,279, you should receive the full amount of basic bursary. Above that amount, a sliding scale operates which reduces the bursary by £1 for every £9.50 over £24,279.

Roughly, for every £1,000 over the income threshold, your parents or partner will be expected to contribute roughly £100 towards your living costs. For example, income of £30,000 would reduce the bursary by £647. Needless to say, parents can contribute more or less than the assumed amount if they wish.

What if my household income has dropped?

If your household income has dropped by 15% since the financial year for the assessment, let NHSBSA know and they may be able to increase your funding by using the 'current' financial year. You will need to complete a Current Year Assessment Form.

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