Hundreds of students who grew up in care are missing out on the SNP’s flagship bursary scheme because of an age limit set by the government.
The First Minister recently announced financial support of £8,100-a-year for care-experienced students.
But the support is only available for those up to the age of 26.
Latest figures show that of the 334 care-experienced students in universities in Scotland in 2016-17, 128 were aged 25 or over, while 679 of the 3,053 care-experienced students at college were over the age of 25.
Young people who were brought up in care are often more likely to attend college or university later in life because of their traumatic childhoods.
Scottish Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said:
“Children who grow up in care are our children – the state is the parent, our taxes pay for their upbringing and we’re all responsible for them.
“But care-experienced young people are still more likely to end up in a prison than a university lecture theatre. That’s one reason I repeatedly argued that every looked-after child in Scotland who wants to go on to higher education should get full grant support.
“The Scottish Government’s decision to introduce a bursary is very welcome, as is the recent decision to increase the payment.
“However, many care-leavers who go to university do so later in life because of the traumatic experiences they’ve had during their childhood. They tend to be mature students, so are missing out on this bursary because of the little-publicised age limit set by the government.
“I urge ministers to consider making financial support available for care-experienced students aged 26 and over, so that we can improve the life chances of all care-leavers.”
Duncan Dunlop, chief executive of Who Cares? Scotland, said:
“New policies, that come from listening directly to care experienced people, will go a long way in helping some of our members achieve their ambitions. The Scottish Government has shown real leadership on this. Care experienced people are like everyone else – they have potential, dreams and the ability to achieve them.
“Unfortunately our members who are over the age of 26 are being left to do it all on their own.
“We know that many care experienced people, for example, go onto further and higher education later than others. In some occasions this is because care left them before they were ready and before they were set on the kind of positive path that other young people get the chance to. Returning to education can be a huge step, especially when people have no financial, practical or emotional support. Our members want to see that the state is on their side and will help them reach their potential, no matter what age they are – just like other parents do.”
Source: Scottish Funding Council Report on Widening Access 2016-17
Scottish Government news release: https://news.gov.scot/news/more-financial-help-for-students