Northern Ireland social work degree students refused funding in England

    Social work students from Northern Ireland have been applying to do
    their degree elsewhere in the UK without realising they are not
    entitled to funding.

    The confusion arose after applicants were sent incomplete
    information printed last year.

    The Northern Ireland Social Care Council is refusing bursaries for
    people undertaking the course elsewhere because it wants to retain
    them once they graduate.

    But the application pack printed last year failed to explain the
    NISCC’s policy and Northern Irish students accepted on courses in
    England are only now discovering they not entitled to any financial
    assistance.

    These students also fail to qualify for funding from the General
    Social Care Council because entitlement is restricted to students
    who been resident in England for three years or more.

    The GSCC has received seven letters of complaint from Northern
    Irish students who applied for bursaries asking why they were not
    entitled to funding.

    A GSCC spokesperson said: “We are in a very difficult position and
    it is hard to explain that it is not our fault. It is not within
    our power to change the [NISCC’s] policy.”

    First year student Emma Dowds, who is studying at University
    College Northampton, said she applied to do the degree at the
    University of Ulster and Queen’s University in Northern Ireland,
    but both courses were full.

    In order to take up her place in Northampton, Dowds’ parents will
    be forced to pay more than £12,000 for her tuition fees and
    living costs. She will also have to pay her own travel costs to
    practice placements, despite other students being entitled to
    £500 for these.

    “My parents will have to pay for my degree but they should not have
    to. It’s a disgrace,” said Dowds. She insisted she would definitely
    be returning to Northern Ireland to work once she graduated.

    Dowds is now awaiting responses to letters sent to education
    minister Ruth Kelly and the parliamentary undersecretary in
    Northern Ireland Barry Gardiner last month explaining her
    situation.

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