Care leavers bursary success

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Following the proposal for more financial support for care leavers, it has been confirmed that commencing the academic year 15/16, eligible undergraduates will receive a £2000 bursary per year. The bursary is likely to be covered by Office For Fair Access (OFFA) related expenditure budgets which are allocated to widening participation and increasing the diversity of students attending Lancaster University, although this is yet to be confirmed.

This follows concerns that Lancaster was not attracting enough care leavers, as it has been reported that approximately only 1.5% of the 1300 care leavers in Lancashire currently study at Lancaster, averaging 7 care leavers per year over the past 3 years. This is proportionately lower than other higher education institutions in Lancashire such as the University of Cumbria and the University of Central Lancashire.

Currently, the University offers care leavers guaranteed 365 day accommodation, a financial advisor and other support. However, care leavers often are disadvantaged financially and Mia Scott, VP (Welfare & Community) explained that a “lack of support networks” can lead to care leavers struggling more financially with their living costs.

Scott has fronted the campaign to receive more financial support for care leavers: writing for SCAN in Michaelmas Term 2014, she recognised that higher education institutions are meant to be “engaging progressively with students and focusing on their abilities and potential, and not circumstances”, and views this bursary as “commitment […] to make Lancaster fully accessible”. Scott called on the participation of current students who are care leavers to back the campaign, and found that although care leavers were supported in many ways, the “one major issue they had was with finance”.

Speaking to SCAN, Scott described the confirmation of the bursary as a “huge win”. She emphasised that the bursary means the financial struggle faced by many care leavers will be reduced during University, and pointed out that care leavers will often “struggle more than most” after leaving University, as they must go headfirst into a lifestyle where there is no background support, and “they are on their own and funding themselves for everything”. Scott recognises the importance of the bursary, as it will allow care leavers to “start saving in their first year [of University]” for this period post-University, and means that “the pressure and stress of thinking about post-University life is reduced dramatically”, benefiting students welfare and allowing them to focus on their academic studies.

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