The NHS body in charge of social work bursaries has apologised to students after admitting they may not know if they have been awarded a bursary or not before courses have started.
The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) warned students the lateness of the government’s announcement on overall bursary allocations, which was originally expected in May but was finally made this morning, meant delays confirming bursary awards were likely.
This was because universities must now return lists of students they wish to nominate for the funding but the timing of the government decision means university staff could be on holiday, the agency said.
In a statement, NHSBSA said: “We’re very sorry for the delay in you receiving this information and we’re working with universities and colleges to help get this capping information returned to us as soon as possible.
“However, due to the time of year, a lot of university/college staff will have finished for the summer break and will not be able to return these capping nomination spreadsheets to us until the 2016/17 academic year has begun.
“We appreciate that this is a very difficult situation for social work students to be in as you may not find out if you have been allocated a bursary until after your course starts.”
Professor Brid Featherstone, co-chair of Association of Professors of Social Work, said university and college staff would be working “over and above” in coming weeks to minimise the impact on students.
“It is deeply regrettable that this delay in the government’s announcement has happened. This has caused huge anxiety and inconvenience for a lot of people, both students and university staff,” she said.
“I know that staff are going to be working over and above in the coming weeks to do their best to ensure students are not disadvantaged by the government’s delay. I really do not understand what caused the delay in announcing allocations, or why students and staff were kept in the dark for months without explanation.”
The NHSBSA said it would post daily updates on its Facebook and Twitter pages with the universities and colleges have returned their list of nominated students. Once lists have been received students will be told if they’ve been allocated a bursary within 10 working days.
The news is the latest twist in a debacle that has caused anxiety and uncertainty to both students and universities for months, with the government having originally said bursary allocations would be announced in May.
Some students have told Community Care they would withdraw from their courses if they did not receive a bursary award.
The long-term future of social work bursaries remains uncertain, with the government considering scrapping the support entirely in future years. Ministers have pledged to consult on changes to the bursaries later this year.