Social work masters students lose second year bursaries

Social work masters students have attacked the body responsible for bursary funding after learning they will lose out on thousands of pounds during the second year of their course.

The students were told by the NHS Business Services Authority (BSA) in March, after several months of dispute, that they would be able to keep their social work bursary for the 2008-9 academic year, worth up to £8,919.

This was alongside £15,000 a year provided by councils through the Children’s Workforce Development Council’s graduate recruitment scheme.

But when the students, who wish to remain anonymous, ­applied for the bursary for 2009-10, the NHS BSA said they were not eligible because they were receiving CWDC funding.

The graduate recruitment scheme aims to attract high-achievers who have not worked in social work. More than 100 people started their studies through the scheme in 2008 and were joined by 200 more this year.

“I want to do this work but I’ve got a mortgage and already spent years paying off one lot of loans for professional fees,” one student said. “This could certainly stop some people from going on to the scheme.”

Another said students had budgeted to receive both the bursary and the CWDC payment for their second year and some would be left in financial difficulty.

Formal complaint

The students have submitted a formal group complaint to the Social Work Bursary Scheme and are appealing against individual funding decisions.

The original bursary application form for 2009-10 did not mention the CWDC scheme, but the form was amended in July to say students receiving the CWDC funding would not be eligible for the bursary, now worth up to £9,360.50.

The students were approached by councils with details of the CWDC scheme last October, a month into their first year of study.

They signed contractual retainers, committing themselves to remaining in the councils’ employment for two years after finishing their studies in return for the funding.

An NHS BSA spokesperson said it was always the case that students receiving retainers from employers were eligible for bursaries so long as the retainers were not funded by the Department of Health. In awarding the money for 2008-9, she said the NHS BSA was not aware that the CWDC funding was provided by the DH but later received clarification that it was.

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