Social work bursaries down in value by £1,000-£1,500 due to nine-year freeze

Government confirms bursary and placement funding in England will remain at 2014 levels as BASW and SWU push for increase in financial support for students

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If you weren't a social worker, would you train to be one now given the current levels of bursaries?

  • No (70%, 436 Votes)
  • I could only afford to do a fast-track course. (21%, 130 Votes)
  • Yes (10%, 60 Votes)

Total Voters: 626

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The real-terms value of social work bursaries in England has fallen by £1,000 to £1,500 per year because of a nine-year freeze.

As previously trailed by care minister Helen Whately, the government confirmed this week that bursaries – paid to university master’s students and second and third-year undergraduates – would remain at the level they have been since 2014, for the 2023-24 academic year.

This means that an undergraduate bursary for a student in London is worth £1,521.92 less than it was in 2014, while that for a postgraduate outside the capital has fallen by £972.44, according to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator.

Bursary 2023-24 value Inflation-adjusted value Difference
Undergraduate – London £5,262.50 £6,784.42 £1,521.92
Undergraduate – outside London £4,862.50 £6,268.74 £1,406.24
Postgraduate – London £3,762.50 £4,850.62 £1,088.12
Postgraduate – outside London £3,362.50 £4,334.94 £972.44

The cap on the number of bursaries in place since 2013 – 2,500 per year for undergraduates and 1,500 for postgraduates – will also remain in place, meaning some students will not receive financial support.

And universities’ funding for placements through the education support grant (ESG) will be frozen for a ninth successive year, at £20 per day for practice placements and £10 per day for skills development days.

The news comes with the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and Social Workers Union (SWU) campaigning to increase bursary levels in England. The organisations are currently urging students and recent graduates to sign an open letter to education secretary Gillian Keegan and health secretary Steve Barclay, calling on them to improve financial support to social work students.

Alongside confirming bursary levels and ESG levels for this year, the Department of Health and Social Care has also set out how many bursaries have been allocated to each higher education institution for courses running in 2023-24.

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4 Responses to Social work bursaries down in value by £1,000-£1,500 due to nine-year freeze

  1. Julia May 30, 2023 at 9:12 pm #

    I am surprised there are many people who want to take on the debt of a social work degree as well as the increased living expenses whilst studying and then have to spend the next few decades paying this off from a job that is not well paid and is becoming more stressful by the day. The fact that the bursary has not kept up with inflation indicates the esteem in which this government holds social workers.

  2. John June 2, 2023 at 3:31 pm #

    It would be helpful to other countries in the UK if you were clear in the headlines and initial sub text that this is England only – for example Wales has recently increased its bursaries for both under graduate and post graduate degree pathways – I appreciate you use headlines to draw people in but it can also lead people to assume this applies to all UK pathways when it clearly doesn’t

    Due to devolved powers there are lot of differences between the UK countries in the way they deliver the degree as well other aspects of social work and social care and it would be helpful on occasions if this could be recognised.

  3. Sophie June 2, 2023 at 7:27 pm #

    I don’t think I would advise anyone to train as a social worker full stop. It took months in 2016 for me to get my social work bursary because of their mess up and it was a huge hit financially. The job is stressful and gets increasingly worse – the difference is that nurses and teachers going through very similar struggles get talked about; we do not.

  4. Paul. June 10, 2023 at 1:52 pm #

    Absolutely not. And that is irrespective of the bursary. Social Work now needs to be disbanded and incorporated into other Health & Care professions.