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Can I go to college whilst in the ESA support group?

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Raindrops1999

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Joined
Feb 13, 2019
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32
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UK
I put in my ESA renewal form that I have dropped out of 2 different colleges because of my mental health, but I feel like I'm ready to go back in September. I looked on one of the college's website and it said you can get the course for free if you're on JSA or WRAG ESA, but I'm in the support group now and I really want to go back to college. what should I do?

Thanks all.
 
PinkCandyFloss

PinkCandyFloss

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Feb 20, 2019
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152
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Northern Ireland
From what I understand it can depend on other benefits and things like if you’re on income based or contribution ESA. Depending where you are there should be a hotline you can call for advise (that won’t be DWP so don’t worry) or CAB could help?
 
R

Raindrops1999

Active member
Joined
Feb 13, 2019
Messages
32
Location
UK
From what I understand it can depend on other benefits and things like if you’re on income based or contribution ESA. Depending where you are there should be a hotline you can call for advise (that won’t be DWP so don’t worry) or CAB could help?
Thank you for information. I will contact my CAB on Tuesday. Hopefully they're be able to help me!
 
PinkCandyFloss

PinkCandyFloss

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Feb 20, 2019
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I hope they can help, it can be confusing what you can and can’t do on the benefits. But I think there is things in place for people wanting to return to education in the hope that in turn, they can go on to work after and not need the benefits
 
CelticTwilight

CelticTwilight

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Sep 5, 2009
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Nocturnsville UK
I agree, it can be very confusing and not least as every few years various tweaks mean one rule or another might be applied in a different context even if it hasn't actually changed.

It is a long time since I was in this position or the nearest to your position that I have been in.

The most obvious thing to consider with ESA Support Group which I am also presently in myself is how much attention you might bring to yourself by putting your head above the parapet just by trying to improve your circumstances (in my experience DWP believe themselves to be the only experts in what is good for us). For example, getting up and going out to college regularly like being able to get up and go to work regularly; may actually trigger an earlier than expected review of your entitlement (quite possibly paranoia on my part) - based on how you filled your ESA50 in of course - but I aren't prying or trying to trick you with leading questions, that part is none of my business, I just think you should give it careful consideration and hopefully by now whatever advice you have managed to acquire has helped you that way.

Anyway trying to be positive and hopefully giving you a bit of moral support if it is what you really want to do regardless of any rules, going to college was what actually got me out of my deepest depression, gave me a bit of confidence around 20 years ago and at least enabled me to manage my life a little better in spite of debilitating mental health issues. The crucial aspect which may be of significance to yourself was my GP recommending I pop along for a (2 week) taster session and that if I thought I could handle it on a longer term basis then to tell the DWP that I was doing it for therapeutic reasons for which she gave me full support. I went for two years and did quite well, enough for the main tutors to recommend I apply for university. I managed to find a loophole (which may well no longer exist) which enabled me to apply as a disabled student (as I was already a student with mental health disabilities). I had to apply for a student loan - the first year of introduction if I am not mistaken - but after all the ins and outs I still qualified for a few pounds a week of what was then Income Support with Incapacity top up and any extra cash you can get your hands on as a student is like gold dust. It also meant I still qualified for my full housing benefit and the same Council Tax rebate I was on. I even qualified for a computer thanks to Student Services (there are some very knowledgeable people work in these departments).

Unfortunately, I hated uni particularly as there were a lot of spoilt, cheeky brats and luke warm lecturers and I felt that I had not progressed due to the lower standards. On the verge of chucking it all in towards the close of the first year, I ended up joining the Open University after contacting and going to see them (they are very professional and have a positive attitude to disability - not just lip service BTW). I got my credits transferred meaning the first year was not entirely wasted.

Even though it took me twice as long with the OU it was 10x more rewarding and suited me perfectly. January to October rather than September to May. That it was more challenging was far less of a factor because this reawakened my enthusiasm. Some of the students were as old as 80, blind, in a wheelchair etc but basically with a vast array of life experiences and backgrounds - real people. I could do a different subject each year if I had wanted to and the financial set up was better enabling me to get back to almost the same as I had been on at college. I think you can even take a break but I never needed to do that. The majority of my student debt is from that single year at a trad uni, I consider that a lesson learnt in itself. I didn't get the career I had wanted partly due to continuing health issues which I still suffer from, partly down to bad luck and difficult life situations but I am glad I set out on that road and took it at my own pace.

The job centre don't stop harrassing you from time to time, as I picked up from others as well. I did have periods, particularly just before I finally got my degree where I had no money/benefits (landlord sold the house had to apply to council etc) but that's been the case before and afterwards as well so ultimately I don't see it as an absolutely deciding factor on them picking on you. Obviously as this was pre-sanction era, I appreciate it was slightly less of a minefield than it probably is now but the crucial factor is it gave me something positive to focus on instead of the constant reminders of being unemployed.

As you have already had some college experience, the actual shock of returning to learning is one less hurdle for you to have to deal with and that could turn out to be crucial. I had done several vocational/practical courses at an adult education centre before I even thought of entering into academic studies for the first time since leaving school (where I was a disaster). If anybody had told me I would be going to university at that point I would have laughed at them. You never quite exactly know where things may lead.

Good luck whatever you decide. If you don't feel quite sure enough due to the benefits situation you could of course use the time to read around your chosen subject(s) a bit more.
 
daffy

daffy

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My daughter did an OU course whilst on esa support group And got a degree in social sciences. But she only had to go to uni to see the lecturer for one day a month. But she still had to complete all the same components as everyone else. But that was a few years ago so the rules may have changed. I would do as others have said and check it out with CAB or maybe phone the DWP and say your enquiring for someone else so your not committing yourself.
 
CelticTwilight

CelticTwilight

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Sep 5, 2009
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Nocturnsville UK
Hi daffy, it was roughly one tutorial a month all the time I was with the OU and all at a university in a neighbouring city and always on a Saturday. Each lasted around 3 hours but they were never compulsory with the basic material covered sent through the post by the tutors. I also had a few one off sessions over the phone. The coursework was carefully planned in synch with the tutorials with plenty of time for marking, feedback etc. The student union had a branch in my own town and the meetings were in the evening on weekdays.

It was not like that at the first university I went to, periods of a glut of work across different modules, some to be done before you got the previous one back, rather chaotic then longer gaps. I did make all the deadlines but being OCD and needing some kind of order in my life, it did my head in. I found college was more organized and tutors there had turned down jobs at the uni and there were a few of the uni lecturers off with stress whilst I was there!

Like you say things need checking out but I just remembered the OU did have some short online only courses. I don't know how these went as they were just starting as I completed. Before that they had some taster packs through the post which were more of a college type level with audio cassettes - wow feeling my age there. This is of course something to look into for later down the line as people are coming to the end of time at college but it may help with the transition which I personally found a bit of a shock but not with the required standard.

I hope this helps anybody else who might also be thinking about returning to college or university.
 
B

Bunny7

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May 8, 2019
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34
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Derby
I’m currently studying with open university - I love it! Most tutorials are now online, there are odd day schools but they’re generally not compulsory and they offer online alternatives. I’m registered as a disabled student so they’ve put things in place to support me. I can’t fault them at all. Just wish I’d started studying years ago!
 
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