We know that the Care Experienced Bursary continues to be a practice issue for many Staf members. The difficulties around its implementation have made their way into newspapers too: 

Vulnerable children in care 'at risk of homelessness' due to flagship bursary problems (The Herald, January 2019)

Swinney set to warn councils over mismanagement of care bursary” (The Herald, February 2019)

The bursary was one of the hot topics at our first Local Authority Members’ Forum on 20 February 2019 – an event exclusively for local authority managers. The issue prompted a lively discussion and Kenny McGhee of CELCIS was able to confirm that a Scottish Government statement on the issue was expected soon. Staf will now pass all of the issues raised to The Scottish Government.

Amongst other things, members have raised with us:

·        a lack of guidance from the government on the policy intention of the bursary;

·        concerns around the process for colleges administering the bursary;

·        issues around the bursary being paid for just 40 weeks of the year for further education students, meaning a 12 week gap in this income; and

·        a lack of clarity caused by the fact that the bursary is for all care experienced young people and is not limited to care leavers.

Over the past few months the issue has been in the news, here’s a quick round up of three stories on the bursary.


1.       North Ayrshire announces rent exemption

In December 2018, North Ayrshire council announced that care-experienced students who are living in council accommodation will be exempt from paying rent. You can find the announcement here.

We were asked by a member to explore the policy in other local authority areas. From the information Staf received it appears that no other local authority has put an exemption in place. However, while the young people are not exempt from rent, some local authorities do pay rent for care experienced students. It is clear that practice varies between local authorities.


2.       Issues with implementation in further education

In January 2019 an article in the Herald said that issues with the implementation of the bursary in further education could mean young people are ‘at risk of homelessness’. This was based on a comment from the head of faculty and lead for widening access at Edinburgh College, who is also a foster carer.

Colleges began to pay a higher bursary to care-experienced students on further education courses from the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year. This is paid as a weekly bursary maintenance award of £202.50. This is based on an average of 40 weeks’ support but colleges can pay this rate up to 43 weeks maximum (or longer if given special permission for certain courses).

A Scottish Government spokesperson stated that, “No student should be made worse off as a result of the increased bursary and we are working with COSLA to resolve this issue.”


3.       Scottish Government to make statement on implementation

In February 2019 the Herald on Sunday ran a story on the bursary, which confirmed that The Scottish Government would make a statement on its implementation. A Scottish Government spokesperson said:

“The whole point of this bursary was to help young people who have been in care to achieve their goals and to make sure they are not adversely affected by not always having the family support that other young people might have when going on to further education.

“The First Minister took great pride in the bursary scheme, and it was intended to genuinely help bridge the attainment gap and improve the lives of young people in Scotland.

“When it came to light that it was not being administered necessarily in the way it was intended, it was obvious that the issue needed to be clarified.

“It should have been done in the beginning really, when this was introduced, but nobody thought councils would start taking money away from some of the most disadvantaged kids in the first place.

“The briefing from John Swinney should be issued soon, its awaiting sign-off. It’s basically telling councils to stop this abhorrent practice and stop classing the bursary as income for these children.”

We will ensure that you, our members, are kept up to date with any further developments regarding the bursary scheme.

Further information

Students Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) https://www.saas.gov.uk/_forms/care_experienced_students.pdf 

Scottish Funding Council (SFC) http://www.sfc.ac.uk/web/FILES/GuidanceStudentSupport/Update_to_student_support_guidance_2018-19.pdf