Young People's Zone
WHAT HELP CAN I GET TO STUDY OR DO TRAINING?
The Government has made it very clear that they expect Children’s Services to help care leavers do well in education and to be sufficiently trained that they can access work in the future.
There are some differences in what you are entitled to depending on what type of study or training you want to do. Sometimes, Children’s Services say that they will only help care leavers who:
- Are in higher education/university
- On a course which is full time.
This is not true. The law doesn’t put limits on who can be helped with the costs associated with education and training. If you are at college, in training, doing an apprenticeship or doing a part time course you should still be able to get financial help from Children’s Services if you need it.
It is important to know that any care leaver aged 16-19 who is attending a Further Education course (that means going to college or doing your A Levels) must get a £1,200 Further Education Bursary. This replaces the old Educational Maintenance Allowance.
If you are a ‘former relevant child’ and studying in higher education (that means in university) you will have to apply for a student loan but Children’s Services must help you with other costs connected with education and training, such as special equipment, travel etc. (The part of the law that says this is Section 23C(4)(b), Children Act 1989). This lasts until you finish your course.
If you are planning to go to university, it is important to know that the law also says that Children’s Services must help you by:
- Paying you a “Higher Education Bursary” (currently worth £2,000 but this may change). The Higher Education Bursary is in addition to your student loan and any other financial support that you are getting from Children’s Services. It can be paid in a lump sum or in instalments and you decide how you want to use it, not Children’s Services (The part of the law that says this is Regulation 2 of The Children Act 1989 (Higher Education Bursary) Regulations, 2009). Children’s Services must give you this money.
- If you are unable to get a student loan, Children’s Services should help you with some form of grant towards the cost of going to university, including towards the tuition fees (R(on the application of Kebede) v Newcastle City Council 2013, EWHC 355). The amount may vary depending on what Children’s Services you are with but this should be written down in their policy on Financial Support to Care Leavers.
- Your student loan will cover the cost of accommodation during term time but Children’s Services must help you with accommodation during the holidays. This might mean providing you with somewhere to stay or giving you additional funds so that you can find yourself accommodation for the holidays. (The part of the law that says this is Section 23C(9), Children Act 1989).
If you have done your first degree and want to do a Postgraduate course (e.g. Masters degree) you can ask your Children’s Services to support you. The law does not say that Children’s Services have to support you but they should do an assessment of your needs before they make a decision (the part of the law that says this is Paragraph 5.14, The Children Act 1989 Statutory Guidance & Regulations Volume 3, Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers). Each Children’s Services should have a written policy to say what support they offer to postgraduate students so you know what they are likely to provide in advance.
What can I do?
Although it is a good idea to talk to your Personal Advisor (PA) as soon as you are thinking about studying or doing some training, it may only be possible to know exactly what help Children’s Services can offer once you have chosen a specific course. It will help if you know in advance:
- The name of the course and the educational institution (college, university, training institute) who is providing it
- The length of the course
- The number of study hours per week
- The cost of the course.
It is also a good idea to read your Children’s Services policy on financial support for care leavers. You can normally find this on your Children’s Services website or you can ask your PA for a copy. This will help you decide what you can expect before you ask your PA for help.
Talk to People
Your Personal Advisor (PA)
Once you have decided on the course you want to do, you should speak to your PA. Do this as soon as possible, even before you register for the course. Although Children’s Services should help you, it is not always that straight forward and arguing about money when you are starting a new course can be very stressful. Try to get everything sorted before you start.
When you speak to your PA, ask them to complete a financial assessment. It is best if this is done as part of your Pathway Plan review so that everything is written down and you can ask for a copy of all the agreements.
Remember, Children’s Services have to honour anything they have agreed in your Pathway Plan so try to get any agreements of support written down in this document.
Your PA’s Manager
Your PA probably doesn’t have the power to make the final decision about what financial support you receive or not. Normally, your PA’s manager will need to agree or it might have to be considered by a special panel (this is just a group of managers who sit together and make decisions about specific things). If your PA says that they can’t decide immediately, try not to get frustrated with them as it is normal for them to have to check with their boss first.
However, if your PA says they will check with their boss and doesn’t come back with an answer or you think the answer they are giving is unfair, you can ask to speak to their manager directly. If you are going to do this, it is important that you have clear information about the course you want to do and why this is important for your future.
Get Some Help
If you still feel that no-one is listening, or you want to get some advice before contacting Children's Services you can contact Always Heard, our national advocacy advice service. You can do this free on 0808 800 5792 or firstname.lastname@example.org