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New approach for supporting care leavers through University

Cabinet Members from Bridgend County Borough Council have approved a new approach for supporting care leavers with their university and higher education studies.

Following public consultation and a review of what other Welsh local authorities offer, the council has devised a new support package to ensure that care leavers aren’t disadvantaged financially while taking some personal responsibility for their futures.

The council will help all care leavers with their applications for a Tuition Fee Loan which they (like all other students) only start to pay back once they earn a salary over £25,000. The care leavers will also receive a Welsh Government Living Costs Grant of £8,100 a year which can be used to cover accommodation and living costs and doesn’t need to be paid back.

They will also have the option of taking out an additional £900 loan should they require it, while Bridgend County Borough Council will provide each of its care leavers with an allowance of £25 per week during term time as well as a bursary in addition to the grants they are entitled to access.

The £667 bursary will be paid at the completion of each academic year (£2,000 over three years) to support the student during their summer vacation.

The council will also offer a ‘start up’ grant to help the student buy the basics for independent University living such as bedding, kitchen utensils and a laptop. If a student finds themselves in particularly difficult personal circumstances that are impacting on their studies then the council can make additional discretionary payments.

The new approach allows greater independence and brings the council’s support more in line with the ethos of the Diamond Report, which has been accepted by the Welsh Government as a recommendation for the future funding of higher education in Wales.

As corporate parents, we want to give young people leaving our care as strong a start as possible as they adapt to living independently. We currently support nine care leavers to attend university, and we’ve identified that over the next three years this number is likely to increase, which is really positive news.

Previously, the council covered the full costs of tuition fees and accommodation for care leavers, but following the Diamond Report and a move towards encouraging more independence, we have devised this new approach. It’s really important for all students to learn about living more independently and managing their money.

Our care leavers will still have access to a substantial grant to cover their accommodation needs and can apply for a student loan just like their peers.

Councillor Phil White, Cabinet Member for Social Services and Early Help

“The extra weekly allowance that we’ll pay them can go towards their food and social activities while they’ll also continue to receive emotional and practical support during their time in University from the council’s leaving care team.”

Earlier this year, Cabinet Members from Bridgend County Borough Council also agreed to support young people leaving care by making them exempt from having to pay any council tax until they are 25 years old.

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