Financial support for care leavers at university

For young people, figuring out how to find up to £3,145 a year to go to university is a hurdle that could stop them before they even get to the application stage. But for young people leaving care, it can seem like hitting a brick wall: highlighted by the fact that just 1% of this group in the UK go onto higher education.

Despite this, there is existing financial support available for student care leavers, with the likelihod that this will improve in the near future.

For 2008-9, young people from low income families (those earning below £25,000 per annum) are entitled to claim a maximum grant of £2,385 annually. Care leavers fall into this category and will receive the maximum amount. But that still leaves a shortfall of £760 for tuition fees before even taking into account costs for food, housing, books and other necessities.

For care leavers aged under 24 in full-time education, local authorities should provide financial support to cover housing costs while universities should bridge the fees gap with a general bursary for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

But this, slightly peacemeal, system should be greatly simplified by the Children and Young Persons Bill. The bill, awaiting Royal Assent, will extend local authorities’ statutory duty of care over young people’s educational and training needs up until they are 25, and includes a one-off £2,000 bursary for those entering higher education.

Universities are also being encouraged to provide bursaries specifically for care leavers, which is over and beyond the requirements outlined in the quality mark scheme run by the Frank Buttle Trust. Since 2007, the number of universities with a care leaver element in access agreements rose from six to 16 and even more significantly, the number of universities with a financial aspect to their support rose from two to 20. Last year, University of Portsmouth won The Times Higher Education Awards 2007 for outstanding student financial support package – namely for their outstanding example of having bursaries for care leavers and young people who were previously homeless.

Click here for full article on Frank Buttle Trust scheme for care leavers applying to universities, ‘A helping hand to higher education’

Office for Fair Access

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