Students’ pockets hit by new rules on practice placement travel costs

Social work students in England say a new limit on the payment for travel expenses incurred during their practice placements could force them to leave their studies.

The General Social Care Council wrote to students in August saying it would pay £575 a year to full-time students towards costs incurred during placements.

Under its previous system, in place since 2004, there was a fixed contribution of £500 but students whose costs exceeded this amount could apply for them to be reimbursed as long as they provided receipts and evidence. There was a limit of £50 on daily travel costs. After a review, the GSCC decided this year to put in place a fixed contribution of £575 to be included in
students’ bursaries, with no reimbursement option.

The move adds to the financial pressure on social work students, coming six months after Community Care revealed that those in England starting the degree this year would have to pay variable tuition fees (news, page 12, 23 March).

One student, Corrina Russell, has paid £1,200 in travel costs for a four-month placement. This has mostly come out of her own pocket. Student Lauren Griffiths lives 20 miles from her placement and has to pay £24 a week for travel, which will add up to about £900 when she has finished it. She said it was unfair that every student received the same money for travel costs, because some lived within walking distance of their placements while others had to travel many miles.

GSCC head Lynne Berry said students should contact their university financial adviser if they were facing money problems.

● When the social work degree started in 2003, the student bursary included £500 for travel expenses and students had to  keep evidence of costs.
● In 2004, the £500 was separated from the bursary and students had to keep details of extra expenses to reclaim them.
● In August 2006 the GSCC wrote to students saying their bursary would include £575 for placement travel costs and they would not receive anything more.

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