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Support for care leavers through university

A new policy for supporting care leavers through their university and higher education studies has been agreed by Bridgend County Borough Council.

Previously, the council’s financial support has enabled young people to meet the costs of term time and vacation accommodation, pay for tuition fees and receive weekly maintenance payments.

The new policy continues to ensure that care leavers aren’t disadvantaged financially, but it gives them more personal responsibility for their finances and future.

The policy explains that 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 financial arrangements in support of care leavers were first presented to Cabinet Members from Bridgend County Borough Council in the autumn and have now been ratified as an official policy.

This local authority has, for many years, provided young care leavers with financial assistance to attend university and higher education courses. We already have nine care leavers from Bridgend studying at university and we’re very proud of their achievements.As corporate parents, we want to give young people leaving our care as strong a start as possible but we also have a responsibility to help them adapt to living independently.

We feel that this new policy provides the necessary financial support that students need while also recognising the importance for all care leavers to learn how to manage their money responsibly, just like their peers.

This approach brings the council’s support 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. Our care leavers entering higher education will also continue to receive emotional and practical support from the council’s leaving care team.

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

The impact of the council’s new ‘University Support Packages for Care Leavers Policy’ will be reviewed in 12 months’ time.

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