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Social Security Case Law - Spring 2024

Summaries of recent cases on social security law and practice.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v AD (UC) [2023] UKUT 272 (AAC)

You can read the full judgement here.



Student loans and the calculation of Universal Credit.  Student maintenance loan income that was used the purpose of paying off tuition fees does not reduce the amount that should be considered when calculating Universal Credit.


The Applicant and her partner made a successful claim for Universal Credit in February 2020.  In October 2021, the Applicant advised that she was starting a full time course and had received a student loan of £12,645.00.  The loan was a maintenance loan but the Applicant had needed to pay course fees of £9250 for that academic year.  The Applicant had two previous years of study and had received tuition fees to cover these years.  However, the Applicant was on a three year course and was not eligible for tuition fees for the third year.

In November 2021 a decision maker assessed the impact of the student loan of £12,645 and decided that it resulted in a student income of £1,295 per Universal Credit assessment period, which affected the Applicant’s entitlement to Universal Credit from September 2021 – June 2022.

In December 2021 the decision maker further decided that over the assessment period of September 2021 – October 2021 there had been a failure to deduct the calculated student income £1,295 from her Universal Credit award and as a result there had been an overpayment of £764.30 which was recoverable.

The Applicant requested a mandatory reconsideration which was unsuccessful.  The Applicant then appealed to the FfT.  The FfT allowed both appeals – the entitlement to Universal Credit and the overpayment of Universal Credit.  The FfT held that the payment made to the Applicant could be treated as a tuition loan and disregarded for the purpose of assessing her income for Universal Credit calculations.  In its decision, the FfT found that the Applicant’s loan was not a maintenance loan within Universal Credit Regulations 2013, Regulation 68(7) and the Tribunal instead looked to the reality of the payments and what they were used for (paying tuition fees).  The Secretary of State then appealed to the Upper Tribunal.

Legal Issue

The appeal concerns the status of the student loan made to the Applicant by Student Finance England and how this applies to the rules of calculation of income for Universal Credit.

Relevant Legislation

Universal Credit 2013, Regulation 68

(2) where a person has a student loan (or a postgraduate loan), their student income for any assessment period referred to in paragraph (1) is to be based in the amount of that loan.

(4) where paragraph (2) does not apply, the person’s student income for any assessment period in which they are treated as having that income is to be based on the amount of their grant.

(7) in this regulation and regulations 69 to 72 –

‘grant’ means any kind of educational grant or award, excluding a student loan or a payment made under a scheme to enable persons under the age of 21 to complete courses if education or training that are not advanced education’

‘student loan’ means a loan towards a student’s maintenance pursuant to any regulations made under section 22 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 

Regulation 69(1)

‘(1) where, in accordance with regulation 68(2), a person’s student income is to be based on the amount of a student loan for a year, the amount to be taken into account is the maximum student loan (including any increases for additional weeks) that the person would be able to acquire in respect of that year by taking reasonable steps to do so’.

Regulation 70

‘where, in accordance with regulation 68(4), a person’s student income is to be based in the amount of a grant, the amount to be taken into account is the whole of the grant excluding any payment –

a) Intended to meet tuition fees or examination fees


Secretary of State’s appeal allowed and the Secretary of State’s original decisions on both the entitlement and overpayment decisions to be reinstated.

The Judge found that the Applicant’s maintenance loan fell with the definition of ‘student loan’ in Regulation 86(7).

‘The definitions used in Regulation 68(7), read with these underlying provisions, seem to me to make it clear that the characterisation of the nature and amount of the financial payment made to a student is based on objective criteria relating to the source of the funds and their characterisation under the Student Support Regulations, rather than how each applicant intends to apply or actually uses the funds granted.  This interpretation is consistent with the title of the regulation (Persons treated as having student income..). (paragraph 13).

Further, the Judge rejected the FfT findings on Regulation 70, stating:

‘The requirements of Regulation 68(2) relating to loans stand in contrast to Regulation 70….’.  Regulation 68(4) ….makes provision about grants, and is clear that it applies only when regulation 68(2) (covering student loans) is not applicable.  So the condition for the application of regulation 70(a) was not met’.  (paragraph 15 and 16).