STUDENTS AWARDS AGENCY FOR SCOTLAND. HIGHER EDUCATION UNDERGRADUATE AND POSTGRADUATE DISCRETIONARY FUNDS (Support for Hardship and Childcare)

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1 STUDENTS AWARDS AGENCY FOR SCOTLAND HIGHER EDUCATION UNDERGRADUATE AND POSTGRADUATE DISCRETIONARY FUNDS (Support for Hardship and Childcare) GUIDANCE FOR ACADEMIC YEAR MAY

2 CONTENTS SECTION PAGE NUMBERS About the Funds 3 Eligibility at a Glance 5 Residence 6-7 Other Criteria & Support 8-10 How needs are assessed Priority Students 13 Advice to Students 14 Disbursement Treatment of Funds 17 Administration Frequently Asked Questions New HE Childcare Fund Frequently Asked Questions Hardship Fund USEFUL CONTACT ADDRESSES Student Awards Agency for Scotland Gyleview House 3 Redheughs Rigg EDINBURGH EH12 9HH The Students Loans Company Ltd 100 Bothwell Street GLASGOW G2 7JD Freephone The Scottish Executive Additional Needs Support Team Europa Building 1 st Floor 450 Argyle Street GLASGOW G2 8LG

3 Introduction 1. These notes provide guidance to assist managers in the operation of the undergraduate and postgraduate Hardship Funds and the new Childcare Fund which have been allocated to them by Scottish Ministers. 2. Institutions must comply with the guidelines set out in this document and should devise suitable systems, for which they will be accountable, to undertake the receipt and disbursement of the Funds. Background 3. Previously, students in HE could apply for discretionary assistance from the Hardship Funds and also undergraduates from the Mature Students Bursary Fund (MSBF). Following detailed consideration of the structure and administration of the undergraduate Hardship Fund and the MSBF a new Childcare Fund has been established and the MSBF has been abolished. Purpose of the Discretionary Funds General 4. Discretionary Funds are intended to provide non-repayable assistance for students in financial difficulties in order for them to access and/or continue in Higher Education (HE) and are paid in addition to any other forms of student support. In HE, Discretionary Funds are allocated by Scottish Ministers (via the Student Awards Agency for Scotland) and are administered by individual institutions. For students in Further Education, the Scottish Further Education Funding Council issues separate guidance on the disbursement of Hardship and Childcare Funds. Further information can be found at: 5. It will be for managers to decide how to disburse funds to individual students. These discretionary Funds should be targeted to those students in particular need, while the criteria being applied should be flexible enough to allow a fair and just response to individual cases. Hardship Funds 6. Support is available to eligible students who are undertaking HNC, HND, Degree or equivalent courses. It is also available to postgraduate students. To be eligible for assistance from either fund, students must satisfy the various criteria laid out in this Guidance. New Childcare Fund 7. The new Childcare Fund will replace the current MSBF and will take effect from the 2005/06 academic year. The new Fund will sit alongside the HE undergraduate Hardship Fund and will be available to all eligible full-time undergraduate students. This new Fund will provide assistance with the cost of formal childcare expenses. The new Fund will be ring-fenced from approximately 50% 3

4 of the MSBF and the remainder of the funds previously allocated to the MSBF will now be used to augment the general undergraduate Hardship Fund. 8. The new Fund enables those students who previously did not qualify for assistance from MSBF (as they did not meet the mature/independent criteria) to access childcare support. It also does not place limits on the amounts individuals can access and gives institutions the flexibility to determine award levels themselves. 9. Students who have both Childcare and Hardship needs will continue to be able to access support from both the Childcare and the undergraduate Hardship Fund. Administration of the Childcare Fund 10. There will be a dedicated administration budget for the new Childcare Fund to replace the administration budget for the MSBF and to help enable institutions to accommodate this new fund. Terminology 11. Discretionary Funds refer to all hardship and childcare funds. Undergraduate Hardship Fund refers to the Hardship Fund available only to students at undergraduate level. Postgraduate Hardship Fund refers to the Hardship Fund only available to postgraduate level full-time students. The Childcare Fund refers to the new childcare fund available only to undergraduates (or those in receipt of the undergraduate package of support (i.e PGCE or PGDipCe). There is no specific childcare fund for postgraduates. 4

5 CRITERIA FOR: Type of fund Undergraduate Hardship Fund Postgraduate Hardship Fund Childcare Fund Domicile/Residence Age Attendance Previous Study Rules/Link to Tuition Fee Eligibility Either UKdomiciled or eligible for student loan support Must be past compulsory school leaving date Must be attending a course of study as defined by SAAS Not applicable Other Support Must have taken out full entitlement of all other available support (such as student loan support) As above As above As above Not applicable As above As above As above As above As above Students must be eligible for tuition fee support and be either undergraduates or in receipt of the undergraduate package of support (i.e PGCE or PGDipCe As above Mode of Study (full/parttime) Either full or part-time study (where part-time is defined as at least 50% of a full-time equivalent course) Only available for full-time students with formal registered childcare costs for dependant children. 5

6 RESIDENCE 12. In order to be eligible for support from the Hardship Funds or Childcare Fund, a student must meet the residency criteria which apply to student loans. These are set out in:- the Education (Student Loans) (Scotland) Regulations 2000 (S.S.I. 2000/200) the Education (Student Support) Regulations 2005 (S.I. 2005/52) the Education (Student Support) (Northern Ireland) Order Electronic copies of Scottish Statutory Instruments (S.S.I.s) are available from the HMSO website at: Electronic copies of Statutory Instruments (S.I.s) are available from the HMSO website at: The Education (Student Support) (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 can be accessed via the HMSO website, at The following provides a summary of what these residence criteria are. However, if you require further guidance on the application of the criteria set out in the regulations above, please contact SAAS on MAIN RESIDENCE CRITERIA 17. To be eligible for support, students must generally fulfil the ordinary residence criteria in relation to the first day of the first academic year of the course, and the immediately preceding three year period. 18. Ordinary residence has been defined in the courts as habitual and normal residence in one place. Living in a place totally or mainly for the purpose of receiving full-time education does not count as being ordinarily resident. 19. There are certain circumstances where a student who may not fulfil these criteria can be considered eligible for support, generally to account for periods of temporary employment or study abroad by the student, the student s spouse or parent. Please contact SAAS for further information and advice. UK and Non-UK Citizens 20. A student must be ordinarily resident in Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland on the first day of the first academic year of the course, and have been ordinarily resident in the UK and Islands throughout the immediately preceding three year period. 21. The student must also be settled within the meaning of the Immigration Act British citizens have settled status. Non-UK EU nationals 22. A person who is a non-uk EU national (or the child of such a person) is eligible to apply, provided he or she is ordinarily resident in the UK & Islands on the first day of the first academic year of the course, and has been ordinarily resident in the UK and Islands throughout the immediately preceding three year period. For the purposes of this 6

7 category of student only, ordinary residence can include periods of residence wholly or mainly for the purposes of receiving full-time education. 23. An applicant who is an EU national (or the child of an EU national) who has been ordinarily resident in the EEA (excluding the UK and Islands) throughout the three year period and is studying in Scotland would be eligible for a fees-only award. These applicants are not eligible for support from the discretionary Funds. European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss Migrant Workers 24. A person who is an EEA or Swiss Migrant Worker (or their spouse or child) may be eligible provided he or she has been ordinarily resident in the European Economic Area or Switzerland throughout the immediately preceding three year period, and is ordinarily resident in the UK and Islands on the first day of the first academic year of the course. British nationals (or their children) who are returning from work within the EEA or Switzerland may also be eligible. 25. A current list of the countries in the EEA is available at: Refugees 26. Applicants who have been granted refugee status and have been ordinarily resident in the UK and Islands at all times since receiving it (or who are the spouse or child of such a person) are eligible to apply, provided they are ordinarily resident in Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland on the first day of the first academic year of the course. Indefinite Leave, Exceptional Leave, Humanitarian Protection And Discretionary Leave 27. Those who have been refused refugee status but granted any of these statuses (or are the spouse or child of such a person) are also able to apply, provided they are ordinarily resident in Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland on the first day of the course, and have been ordinarily resident in the UK and Islands for the previous three years. EU Temporary Protection 28. Students who have been granted EU Temporary Protection and are under 18 at the start of the current academic year are eligible if they are ordinarily resident in the UK and Islands on the first day of the course, and have been ordinarily resident in the UK and Islands at all times since receiving that status. Asylum Seekers Hardship Funds 29. Asylum seekers are those whose applications for asylum in the UK are currently being considered by the Home Office. This group of applicants would not meet the standard residence requirements for student loans. 30. However, such students may be eligible for fee waiver support to undertake sub-degree (higher national) level courses on a part-time basis. The Hardship Funds may be used to provide such students with support towards travel and study costs which are necessary to allow the student to attend the institution and undertake the course of study. It will be up to the institution to determine what constitutes study costs. BACK TO TABLE 7

8 AGE 31. Students entering HE before they have reached their official school leaving date are not eligible to apply for support from the Hardship Funds or the Childcare Fund. BACK TO TABLE ATTENDANCE 32. Institutions must be satisfied that students are attending/undertaking an appropriate course of education and that their attendance is satisfactory. BACK TO TABLE PREVIOUS STUDY RULE/LINK TO TUITION FEE ELIGIBILITY 33. Students must meet the eligibility criteria for tuition fees to be eligible for assistance from the Childcare Fund, and be either undergraduates or in receipt of the undergraduate package of support (i.e PGCE or PGDipCe). This rule has been carried forward from the MSBF and is in place to target support to first time undergraduates. 34. There are no previous study rules which attach to the Hardship Fund. Students who cannot attract tuition fee support due to previous study can still be considered eligible for support from the undergraduate Hardship Fund. BACK TO TABLE OTHER SUPPORT Full Time Students 35. Student loans are an integral part of the system of student support. Students who are eligible for a student loan are, of course, free to decide whether to take out a loan and, if so, how much to borrow. However, a full-time student must have taken out a student loan, if eligible, and applied for the full amount to which they are entitled before receiving help from the undergraduate Hardship Fund and Childcare Fund. Institutions should contact the Student Loans Company if they are unsure whether a student has taken out their maximum entitlement. 36. Institutions are free to make short-term repayable cash advances from the undergraduate Hardship Fund to students who have not received their loan cheque at the start of the first term for whatever reason. In order to give institutions flexibility to pursue any non-repayment of loan where a student leaves the course or does not receive a student loan, institutions should ask the student to sign a declaration that they will repay the loan. 8

9 Part-time Undergraduate Students 37. From academic year 2000/2001 eligible part-time mature undergraduate students have been able to apply for student loans of 500 if their income is below 13,000 (more depending on family circumstances). Part-time students who are eligible for such a loan but who choose not to take one should not be given help from the undergraduate Hardship Fund. 38. Where part-time students are in the process of applying for their loan they may be given help from the undergraduate Hardship Fund. However, any subsequent payments or instalments of payments should only be made once the student can provide documentation to show they have applied to SAAS for their loan. Institutions should take into account the 500 the student expects to receive from the loan when assessing the students' income. Part-time students who do not meet the criteria for the loan may still apply for assistance from the undergraduate Hardship Fund. Childcare Support 39. Students who are widowed, divorced, separated or single with at least one dependant child are eligible for the Lone Parent s Grant from SAAS. They can also claim the Additional Childcare Grant for Lone Parents for help with formal childcare costs. Institutions should ensure that eligible students claim this from SAAS when assessing their need for support through the Childcare Fund. 40. Institutions should also be aware that from session 2001/2002, students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be eligible to apply for childcare grants from their award making bodies. Students who are eligible for this support should not therefore be given funding from the Childcare Fund. They will, however, continue to be eligible for support from the undergraduate Hardship Fund. 41. Students with children can also receive support through Tax Credits, which came into force in April The Inland Revenue will pay Child Tax Credit to those responsible for at least one child, whether or not they are in paid work. Students who are part of a couple in which at least one person is working a minimum of 16 hours per week may be eligible for Working Tax Credit. Further information on Tax Credits is available at or by calling Students who are in receipt of Child Tax Credits may also be eligible for free school meals. Students should contact their own local authority for more information. Department of Health Bursary Students 43. The Childcare Fund should not be used to assist students who are in receipt of a Department of Health bursary or those who are salaried NHS employees. These students are eligible for support from the undergraduate Hardship Fund if they are eligible for the means-tested bursary. If, however, they are eligible for the non means-tested bursary (i.e. students supported under the Nursing and Midwifery 9

10 Student Bursary Scheme), they are not entitled to help from the undergraduate Hardship Fund. 44. Further information on these issues can be obtained via the SAAS website at: BACK TO TABLE MODE OF STUDY 45. The Hardship Funds must only be used to assist students in one of the following groups: For the Undergraduate Hardship Fund students who are undertaking full or part-time courses in HE, including postgraduates attending courses within the scope of the loans scheme; and For the Postgraduate Hardship Fund postgraduate Students full or parttime students who are studying in HE at levels above first degree 46. A part-time student must be studying at least 50% of a full-time course during the academic year to be eligible for assistance from the Hardship Funds. Institutions should consider how long it would take to achieve the relevant qualification if the course was taken full-time. If the part-time course will take more than twice as long to complete as a full-time course, then assistance from the Hardship Funds should not be given. 47. The Childcare Fund must only be used to assist full-time undergraduate students. Part-time undergraduate and postgraduate student parents are not eligible for support from the Childcare Fund. BACK TO TABLE 10

11 HOW SHOULD INSTITUTIONS ASSESS NEED? 48. Institutions are best placed to decide who, based on need, should receive support from the Hardship Funds and the Childcare Fund. 49. In the assessment of need institutions will need to consider what evidence should be provided of a student's financial position. For example instead of a single bank account balance monthly statements may better indicate this. Evidence regarding student loan support might be helpful as well, for example a copy of the loan agreement/award letter. 50. When assessing applications, details of the student's weekly income (including partner's income where applicable) and expenditure should be provided. Information that will typically be required from students to support their application is detailed below as a guide. HOUSEHOLD INCOME Gross Income/Earnings from Employment Pension Income Benefits Income* Income from Rent/Lettings Career Development Loan Scholarship Income Child Support Payments Student Loan Supplementary Grants (other than DSA) (* excluding DLA - Disability Living Allowance) EXPENDITURE Mortgage/Rent Council Tax Formal Childcare Costs Bank Loan Repayments Food/Housekeeping Gas/Electricity Child Support Payments Excess Travel Costs 51. Institutions may ask students to provide any other information which they believe is relevant to the application, e.g. marital status; number of dependant children and their ages; whether the student is a homeowner or tenant; any outstanding debts incurred prior to the start of the course; whether the student has savings etc. 52. It is for institutions to decide what evidence is required in order to verify the information provided by the student. However, in the interests of prudence and value for money, institutions should examine a random sample of cases to compare estimated expenditure with actual expenditure incurred. Students should therefore be informed that they may be asked to provide proof of actual expenditure later in the year. Institutions must remember however, that payments from the undergraduate Hardship Fund and the Childcare Fund should only be made when the student has applied for their full loan and supplementary grant entitlement (if eligible). 11

12 53. Factors for consideration in the assessment of need: whether the claimed deficit between income and expenditure constitutes real need and cannot reasonably be reduced to a manageable level by the student; whether the payment should be in instalments or in the form of a short term repayable cash advance; the availability of support from alternative sources, for example, bursaries, assistance from SAAS, assistance from a Local Education Authority (for students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Social Security Benefits, Career Development Loans or similar schemes; the circumstances of students and types of need prevalent locally and any existing local schemes for improving access; the frequency with which payments to individuals should be made and entitlement reviewed; and in considering requests for support from the Funds from students who have temporarily suspended their studies through illness, or who may be experiencing difficulty in finding a placement in industry as an essential part of their course, institutions should first check whether the student continues to be registered as a student. They should also take into account the prospect of the student resuming his or her course and the availability of support from other sources. 12

13 PRIORITY CONSIDERATION SHOULD BE GIVEN TO THE FOLLOWING STUDENTS FROM THE FUNDS: PRIORITY STUDENTS HARDSHIP FUND CHILDCARE FUND Students with one dependant child who previously received the child element of the Dependant s Grant and School Meals Grant (prior to 04/05). These students may be financially disadvantaged under the system including parent students whose partner is in receipt of working tax credits and so are ineligible for free school meals from local authorities. Mature Students Lone parents Part-time Students Students who had previously received the Two Homes Grant (prior to 04/05) Students who have left care to enter HE but who are not eligible for the Vacation Grant for Care Leavers. Students currently need to be under the age of 21 at the start of their course to qualify for the Care Leavers' grant. There may therefore be some students who are not eligible for this grant who should be given priority consideration. Final year students who have higher costs in their final year such as those on design or fashion courses. Institutions should also be sensitive to the situation of those final year students who do not wish to continue their part-time jobs because they want to devote more time to their studies. Mature/Independent Students who previously received assistance from the non-childcare element of the MSBF i.e. for other costs such as housing, travel and other expenses. 13

14 ADVICE TO STUDENTS 54. Institutions may receive enquiries about assistance from all the Funds before courses actually start. Those administering these Funds may advise prospective eligible students of the amount which they will receive on starting their course. 55. Under arrangements which came into effect from 6 April 1992, students (whether or not they pay income tax) may deduct tax relief at source from payments made for course fees, registration and examination fees, fees payable for assessment purposes including assessment of prior learning and for any consequent award or certificate, or entry in an official register. Relief will be given for payments made by individuals for training leading to Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) (National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) in England and Wales) up to and including level 4. Higher rate taxpayers can claim further tax relief on their tax return or by writing to their Tax Office. From May 1996 tax relief has also been available to those aged 30 or over who are paying for full-time vocational courses lasting between four weeks and one year which do not involve SVQs/NVQs. 56. In the event of any queries and requests for guidance on the operation of the scheme, colleges are advised to contact Inland Revenue, Advice on Schemes, Financial Investments Claims Organisation (FICO), (Vocational Training Unit), St John's House, Merton Road, Bootle, Merseyside, L69 9BB (telephone ), and not SAAS. 14

15 DISBURSEMENT AND PAYMENT AMOUNTS General 57. Assistance from all the Funds may be given in the form of a cash payment to the student or to a third party. Assistance from the Hardship Funds can also be given through the provision of items or services for the student on an individual basis or in the form of a short term repayment loan. Large items of equipment bought for the use of individual students should remain the property of the institution. 58. Institutions will decide how to disburse funds to individual students. The Funds should be targeted to those students in particular need, while the criteria being applied should be flexible enough to allow fair and proportionate response to individual cases. 59. For both Childcare and Hardship Funds, the minimum payment should be 100, other than in exceptional circumstances. Very large individual payments to a few students disproportionately reduce the amount of Funds available for other cases of hardship. Normally, individuals should not therefore receive payments totalling more than 3,500 from the Hardship Funds towards living costs in any one academic year. Managers wishing to make a single payment in excess of 3,500 should contact SAAS on There is no limit to what an institution can award each student under the new Childcare Fund. 61. Also, as a general rule the Hardship Funds should not be used to make good failure to receive the parental contribution. Managers are free to take account of any other factors they decide are appropriate. 62. Institutions should operate a rolling programme for applications so that students can apply for help at any time during the academic year as opposed to institutions simply considering applications for assistance at two or three fixed times a year. Institutions should also seek to ensure that applications are processed as quickly as practicable. 63. The Funds should not be used to provide communal facilities; to make adaptations to buildings; and to meet staff salaries or the cost of administration. 64. Institutions will wish to ensure that a disproportionate amount of funds is not being used to recruit those who would otherwise be deterred from commencing a course rather than meeting cases of hardship ensuing after students have started their courses. 65. As some students find that they need financial assistance late in the academic year, perhaps because they have not been able to find temporary employment for the summer vacation, institutions may consider it prudent to hold back some of the Funds, and keep in place arrangements for considering late applications. 15

16 Hardship Funds 66. Institutions can use the Hardship Funds to provide scholarships or bursaries to assist with meeting the living costs, but not the tuition fees, of students who would otherwise be deterred from entering HE because of their financial circumstances. Such assistance is, however, subject to the maximum limit of 3,500 and the total that can be spent by institutions on new bursaries in the academic year should not exceed 10% of the institutions' total Hardship Funds budget. A key principle of this bursary scheme is that students should know in advance of starting their course what assistance will be available to them, although no payments should be made until the student has enrolled. The bursary scheme should not be used, however, to top up an existing studentship or postgraduate award made by SAAS or any Research Council. 67. Institutions should be aware of the need to retain enough money in the Hardship Funds for emergency use and the potential impact of bursary support on benefits entitlement. Students on benefit in the second and subsequent years of their course 68. Students commencing their course in the coming academic year continue to be able to claim any income-related benefits to which they are entitled until such time as they commence their course. For continuing students however, the DSS takes the student loan into account from 1 September until 30 June. Therefore, students who are about to start their second or subsequent years and who may have been able to claim benefits over the summer vacation - may find that they cannot claim their benefits after 1 September. As a result students may need assistance from the undergraduate Hardship Fund until they receive their loan cheque at the start of the autumn term. 16

17 TREATMENT OF FUNDS BY INSTITUTIONS Appeals, Applications and Decision-Making Process 69. Institutions should have an appeals procedure in place for cases where students have applied unsuccessfully for help from all the Funds. This procedure should be clear and students should be informed of their right to appeal. It will be for each institution to resolve any appeals internally with individual students about the award of a payment from the Funds. Appeals should not be referred to the Scottish Ministers or SAAS. 70. Institutions should have a transparent application and decision-making process. Again it will be for each institution to ensure that they have their own arrangements in place. Publicity 71. Institutions are responsible for publicising the availability of these Funds to their students. Treatment by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) of payments from both Funds 72. Payments from the Funds will be disregarded as long as they are not intended for general living costs and do not, therefore, duplicate provision from the benefits system. However, payments in relation to housing costs which could be met by income related benefits will be regarded as income by the DWP. 17

18 ADMINISTRATION Allocation and Payment of Expenditure 73. Each institution must nominate a Funds Manager to administer each of the Funds. Payment of all Funds is conditional on the acceptance in writing by the Fund Managers of the following requirements:- that full and proper accounting records are kept of all fund transactions that there are adequate systems of financial management and control and all funds have been applied in accordance with the requirements set out in this guidance. 74. Fund Managers shall engage the services of an auditor who is eligible for appointment as a company auditor under the terms of section 25 of the Companies Act Alternatively, where this proves impractical, permission may be sought from SAAS to use a suitably qualified person (e.g. CIPFA). The Fund Accounts must be audited separately from the Main Institution Audited Accounts. The auditor's report, in addition to giving an opinion on each of the fund accounts, should say whether, in the auditor's opinion, the funds have been properly applied in accordance with the requirements set out in this guidance. For the purpose of administering the funds, the Fund Managers shall maintain an adequate system of financial management and internal controls, including safeguards against fraud, and shall require their auditors, as part of their audit, to report on the adequacy or otherwise of that system. A copy of the auditor's report should accompany the accounts forwarded to SAAS, which must be returned by 31 December. 75. Books and other documents relating to all accounts shall be open to inspection by Scottish Ministers and by the Comptroller and Auditor General (Audit Scotland). 76. No later than 31 December, each institution will provide SAAS with:- an audited income and expenditure account covering the preceding Academic year, signed/authorised by the Principal and independent Auditor a refund of any amounts not paid out to students by the end of the academic year in excess of the allowed carry forward (cf para 82) such statistical and other information as may be required by SAAS. 77. Returns must only be made on the annexes provided and sent to - Finance Team, Room 216, Student Awards Agency For Scotland, Gyleview House, 3 Redheughs Rigg, Edinburgh, EH12 9HH. 78. The Funds allocated to each institution will be notified annually in June, if possible, and will be paid in August for the full academic year. 79. The allocations take into account the numbers of full-time equivalent students (for the Hardship Funds) and the new Childcare Fund will take into account weighting factors such as the number of students in receipt of lone parents grants; those who received the child element of the dependant s grant with lesser weighting attached to mature/independent students. Allocations to institutions with a higher 18

19 proportion of PAMs students will reflect that these students are ineligible for assistance from the Childcare Fund. 80. Institutions should operate a separate interest bearing account for each fund. Exceptionally, one account can be used for all Funds if institutions are able to confirm to their auditors that they can separate the accrued interest appropriate to each fund. 81. Each institution will be allocated an amount by SAAS to be used towards the costs of setting up procedures for administering and publicising the Childcare Fund. This sum can be enhanced by using the interest from the Funds held in the interest bearing bank account. 82. The Funds allocated towards helping students should not be used to meet the cost of administering them. Nor should they be used to meet staff salaries or to adapt buildings or provide group or communal facilities. 83. An institution can carry forward up to 10% of their original allocation into the following academic year. The carried forward Funds must be used in accordance with the most recent policy for the fund (that is the purposes the funds were originally intended for, as currently interpreted). Any amount over the 10% must be refunded to SAAS. 84. Institutions will be allowed to transfer up to 40%, of the original allocation, from the Childcare Fund into the undergraduate Hardship Fund, to be distributed under Hardship Fund criteria. No transfer is allowable from the undergraduate Hardship Fund into the Childcare Fund. 85. Institutions shall not write off any debt or liability owed to them arising from the operation of either of the Funds in excess of 500, on any single occasion, without the prior written consent of SAAS. 86. Late receipt and/or non-receipt of accounts and monitoring information may result in the withholding of future funds. 19

20 NEW HIGHER EDUCATION (HE) CHILDCARE FUND Q & A New HE Childcare Fund Q. What is the new HE childcare fund? A. The new HE childcare fund is a ring-fenced discretionary fund which eligible full-time UK-domiciled students can access to assist with the cost of formal childcare expenses. Q. Why did you establish an HE Childcare Fund? A. To simplify the package of support which is available to students undertaking HE who have childcare needs. A. Previously eligible full-time HE students (new students from 01-02) could access formal childcare support through the mature students bursary fund (MSBF), which also provided some support for Hardship. We reviewed the structure of Funds for Hardship in HE and FE and evidence showed that the MSBF was an ineffectual stream of support. A. It was clear that a distinct HE Childcare Fund to sit alongside the undergraduate Hardship Fund was a better structure and use of the funding available. The remainder of the funds in the former MSBF will be used to augment the general HE undergraduate Hardship Fund. Q. Who exactly will be eligible for the new HE Childcare Fund? A. Full-time UK-domiciled HE students who meet the eligibility criteria for tuition fees (first-time undergraduates) regardless of status - independent/mature/young - can apply for support to the HE Childcare Fund for formal or registered childcare costs. Q. Are part-time students eligible for the new HE Childcare Fund? A. No. As with the former MSBF only full-time students are eligible for assistance from the new HE Childcare Fund. Part-time students can access support from the Hardship Fund and are a priority group for the Hardship Fund. Q. Is the fund linked to previous study rules? A. Yes. You must be eligible to have your tuition fees paid by SAAS to be eligible to apply for support from this fund. Q. How much is available to individual students? A. There are limits on the overall fund, and allocations to individual institutions are determined in advance of the academic year. It is for individual institutions to determine the amounts it can allocate to students. Q. What about FE? A. We are not making any changes to the arrangements in FE, where there is already a separate Childcare Fund and Hardship Fund. The restructure in HE will align with that in FE. 20

21 MSBF-specific Q Won t mature students be worse off if you withdraw the Mature Students Bursary Fund? A. No. Mature students with childcare needs will be eligible to apply for the same support from the new Childcare Fund as under MSBF. They will also be eligible to apply for support from the augmented UG Hardship Fund Q. Why was a MSBF established (as it is not a bursary fund for mature students)? A. It is true that the name MSBF could be confusing. We established the MSBF in response to the Cubie Committee s recommendations which clearly demonstrated that mature students had additional costs when undertaking HE study. Q. Was there a limit previously on the amount of money which an individual student could receive through the MSBF? A. Yes. Eligible students could apply to the MSBF for assistance of up to 2,000 with formal childcare costs as a top priority. Assistance was also available for housing and excess travel costs and up to 150 available for other costs. The new fund does not have a limit on the amounts individuals can access. We are confident that institutions are best placed to determine individual amounts of assistance. Q. Does this mean that previous students who could not access childcare support through the MSBF (as they did not meet the criteria of mature/independent) can now access childcare support? A. Yes. While part-time and postgraduate students do not have access to the new Childcare Fund, they can receive assistance with Childcare costs through the Hardship Fund. Mature Students-Specific Q. What about mature students who previously received support from the MSBF for housing, excess travel and other costs? A. As the new HE Childcare Fund will only use approx 50% of the MSBF, the other 50% will be used to augment the UG HE Hardship Fund. Students who previously got assistance for the non-childcare elements of the MSBF will be priority candidates for the UG HE Hardship Fund. Q. Can students still get assistance from both these discretionary Funds (both the new Childcare Fund and the general Hardship Fund)? A. Yes. As was the case with MSBF and the general Hardship Fund, students who have both childcare and hardship needs can receive assistance from both funds. Lone Parents Q. What support is available to full-time Lone Parents in HE? A. Eligible Lone Parents can access the Lone Parents Grant and the Lone Parents Childcare Grant through SAAS; they can also from access the new HE Childcare Fund. 21

22 Formal/registered childcare Costs Q. Why do you restrict support to only formal/registered childcare? A. The Childcare Fund (and what was previously the childcare element of the MSBF) can only provide assistance for formal/registered childcare costs. We recognise that many students use informal childcare arrangements and so would not be eligible for support from this fund. However, this requirement is in line with the wider Executive policy on the use of formal/registered childcare, including the National Childcare Strategy, and as such is necessarily a feature of student support for childcare. This is also a requirement for support from the FE childcare fund. Q. Are you trying to expand the definition and provision of formal/registered childcare? What work is being done towards this? A. Formal/registered childcare is any provision which is regulated by the Care Commission. The type of provision which is regulated by the Care Commission is legally defined in the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act Local authorities with their Childcare Partnerships are expected to identify and meet local childcare needs, including those of students. BACK TO TABLE 22

23 HIGHER EDUCATION (HE) HARDSHIP FUND Q & A Q. Some students won t take out a loan because of their religious beliefs. Are they eligible for assistance from the Hardship Fund? A. No. Students must take out their loan, if they are eligible for one. A student who chooses not to take out a student loan, for whatever reason, should not receive help from the Hardship Fund. Institutions may, however, find it helpful to explain that the interest rate attached to student loans merely repays the loan in real terms and is tied to the rate of inflation. It is not an interest rate in the commercial sense of the word, and no profit is made from the interest paid by borrowers. Q. Can the Hardship Fund be used to pay the arrears on a student loan, where the student has defaulted? A. No. However, if a student were in hardship as a result of not being able to receive a student loan, the student would be able to apply for help in meeting their living costs. Q. Can students apply more than once during an academic year for help from the Hardship Fund? A. Yes. Students circumstances change in the course of a year, and there should not be any set limit on the number of times a student can apply for help through the Hardship Fund. Q. Can the Hardship Fund be used to help a student whose parents refuse to make their contribution to his or her living costs? A. No. The Hardship Fund should not be used to make good a lack of parental contribution as a matter of course. However, the Fund is intended to help students in hardship, and on that basis institutions may help any eligible student in need. It is important to emphasise that institutions should treat such cases carefully, and that it is made clear that no student has an automatic right to a payment from the Fund where the parental contribution is lacking. Institutions must, of course, check that the student has applied for the maximum loan they are entitled to. Where a student s parents have refused to complete their income details on the SAAS application form, and students have therefore only been able to take out the non means-tested element of their loan, this does not make them ineligible for help from the Hardship Fund. Q. Are those students who are in receipt of a Dept of Health bursary eligible for Hardship Fund? A. Yes, if they are eligible for the means-tested bursary. If, however, they are eligible for the non meanstested bursary (i.e. students supported under the Nursing and Midwifery Student Bursary Scheme), they are not entitled to help from the Hardship Fund. Q. Can the Hardship Fund be used to pay the tuition fees of those students who continue to be liable for their fees e.g. part-time students? A. No, the Hardship Fund must not be used to help students meet their tuition fees. 23

24 Q. Last year we gave Hardship Funds to a student who we later found out was ineligible. As it wasn't the student's fault, can we continue to support the student this year even though they continue to be ineligible? A. No. Payments from the Hardship Fund should not be given to ineligible students, even where previous payments were made as a result of a mistake or misunderstanding. Q. Can the Hardship Fund be used to provide support for prisoners studying a course of HE? A. No. Prisoners are only entitled to tuition fee support. Q. Are students who are on a year out (of study), eligible to apply for assistance from the Hardship Fund? A. No. There is a requirement that students still have to be registered as an actual student and should be attending a course. For students who have temporarily suspended their studies through illness, or who may be experiencing difficulty in finding a placement in industry as an essential part of their course, institutions should first check whether the student continues to be registered as a student. They should also take into account the prospect of the student resuming his or her course and the availability of support from other sources. would not be in greater need of those funds. Q. Can institutions use the Hardship Fund to meet the cost of outstanding accommodation fees from students who have withdrawn? A. No. This is an internal matter for each institution in terms of how they administer applications for halls of residence. Institutions cannot use the fund for backdated payments to students who have already left. Q. Is a student undertaking a Distance Learning course with no requirement to attend the Institution at any time eligible to apply for help from the Hardship Fund? A. Yes. As long as the course being undertaken is at least 50% of a full time one and the applicant meets the residence criteria which apply to student loans, then they can apply. Q. Are institutions free to move Hardship Funds between themselves? A. No. There would be no guarantee that another institution 24

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