In this guest blog, David Robb - CEO of The Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) - reflects on the work the organisation has undertaken to support care-experienced students. #WeLove

Informing Choices, Funding Futures, Supporting Success

The Covid-19 pandemic is a public health crisis on a scale that we have never experienced before in our lifetime. As the Chief Executive of the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS), I’m immensely proud of the measures we have put into place to support our Higher Education students and in particular those who are care experienced.

The work that has been done to support care experienced students over this period has been possible due to the policy foundations we laid in 2017 with the introduction of the Care Experienced Bursary. This is a non-repayable bursary of (now) £8,100 for students studying a course of Higher Education and is payable each year of their course.

Eligible students who receive the bursary can also access the Care Experienced Accommodation Grant to help them with accommodation costs over the summer months. Students eligible for the bursary are also entitled to an extra year of funding should they need to repeat a year of their studies.

These measures, I hope, provide a good support net to enable care experienced students to enter and stay in Higher Education and to gain their qualifications.

From March, the team at SAAS have worked very closely with colleagues in Scottish Government and the Scottish Funding Council to consider the impact on student support of Covid and the subsequent lockdown measures. We worked collectively to produce the Student Support Action Plan - announced by the First Minister on 8th April. This action plan set out a series of measures to support students in both Further and Higher Education who had been impacted in some way by the pandemic. In Higher Education, those measures included £2.2m of additional hardship funding and the extension of the Care Experienced Accommodation Grant, allowing students to access it from April rather than summer, resulting in an additional eight weeks of financial support.

Since the publication of the plan, we have continued to listen to students, their representatives and colleges & universities on the impact that Covid is having on students’ lives. In recognition of this, we collectively produced the Student Hardship Summer Action Plan - announced by the First Minister on 11th June. This allowed SAAS to bring forward the payment of £11.4 million of hardship funds to colleges & universities to help them directly support their students.

In the Hardship Fund guidance that SAAS produce each year to support the administration of these funds, we note that care experienced students should be regarded as a priority group. We have also developed a Care Experienced funding guide leaflet, which will be available on our website in the coming weeks. This will be made available online, in print, a short Hints and Tips video and British Sign Language formats.

We have expanded our digital capabilities over the last year - the Scottish Government launched the Student Information Scotland website, a brand new one stop shop for information on student finance.

Going forward (and out of lockdown), the 2020/21 Academic Year will see a big shift in the Care Experienced Bursary policy with the removal of the age cap. I hope this will pave the way for many more students to enter Higher Education.

As an Executive Agency of the Scottish Government, SAAS feeds into their Corporate Parenting Plan and in 2017 we also published our own plan in recognition of the work that we do to support care experienced students. 2020 will see the publication of our second Corporate Parenting Plan which will set out our commitments to our care experienced students over the coming years.

You may find the following links of interest: 


David Robb
Chief Executive

#TeamSAAS #WeLove