24+ Advanced Learning Loan Bursary Fund Policy

This information outlines how Progress to Excellence will use the 24+ Advanced Learning Loan Bursary fund to support vulnerable and disadvantaged learners.

24+ Advanced Learning Loan Bursary Fund Policy 2014-15

1. Introduction

 The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) have set aside a £50 million bursary fund (over 2 years), dispersed by Colleges and training organisations to help vulnerable learners.
The Bursary provides a single flexible budget to fund support for disadvantaged and vulnerable learners. All learners who have had a loan approved by the Student Loans Company (SLC) and have registered for their course are potentially eligible, dependant on need.
The Bursary helps remove the barriers that Loans-funded learners might face by providing for:
  • Discretionary Learner Support (DLS) for hardship and other difficulties such as childcare and travel. The fund can be used at the discretion of the provider to react to a learner’s emergency needs and local circumstances.
  • Additional Learning Support (ALS) including exceptional ALS activity, for “in- learning” support such as for teaching assistant support, specialist equipment, technology and necessary adjustments under the Equality Act 2010).
 The Bursary Fund is distributed at the discretion of the provider and is not a learner entitlement. However Progress to Excellence notes its ALS responsibility under the Equalities Act 2010.

2. Policy and Procedures

The SFA has allocated the 24+ Advanced Learning Loan Bursary Fund to support learners aged 24+ who have had a loan approved by the SLC.   In determining the policy that will govern the allocation of grants from the 24+ Advanced Learning Loan Bursary Fund, Progress to Excellence has followed the guidelines provided by the SFA.
Priorities
Priority applicants for the 24+ Advanced Learning Loan Bursary Fund are learners who may be disadvantaged or vulnerable as a result of:
  • having a learning difficulty and/or disability.
  • having  a medical  condition.
  • being ex-military personnel.
  • being a parent with childcare responsibilities who needs additional help with child-care costs.
  • an emergency short-term  financial need (a learner may be at risk of withdrawing from learning without emergency support).
To meet its responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010, Progress to Excellence will prioritise support for learners with disabilities who make timely applications to the 24+ Advance Learning Loan Bursary Fund.

3. General Eligibility

Prior to application to the SLC
In order to qualify for substantial financial assistance towards disability support or childcare/additional childcare costs a learner must fulfill the following:
  • have been interviewed and assessed by the Progress to Excellence Equality & Diversity Officer
  • be identified as in need of support
  • have had support needs identified and costed prior to approval
or
  • have been interviewed by a member the Progress to Excellence Equality & Diversity Officer
  • and identified as needing substantial financial assistance
  • and have childcare needs confirmed and costed prior to approval
To have confirmation of required support from the 24+ Advanced Learning Loan Bursary Fund, a learner must:
•    Have a loan approved by the SLC- verification will be required.
4.    Income Criteria for financial support for childcare, course associated costs or exceptional circumstance.
  • One of the following criteria must be applicable to the applicant:
  • On a low income / be a dependant of someone who is on a low income, in receipt of a means tested benefit e.g. Income Support / Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and or be in receipt of the highest level of Child Tax Credits.
Financial assessment
A financial assessment will be carried out in all cases.  The learner will be required to provide recent proof of income & rent/mortgage payments:
  • A current income support/pension/working tax credit certificate, recent correspondence from the DWP/HMRC which specifies the benefit being received, a signed and stamped letter from the benefit agency.
  • A P60.
Income from Disability Living Allowance will not be counted as income in the financial assessment.
Original documents must be presented for assessment. Learners may be asked to re-present these if required for audit purposes.

5. Progress to Excellence Criteria

The learner must:
  • be fully enrolled on a L3 / L4 course with Progress to Excellence.
  • have a minimum attendance of 85% – however the MIS Manager may authorise a payment if attendance is below 85% in exceptional circumstances (e.g. sickness).
Other
  • Learners , who are in receipt of other state funding to support their study e.g. enrolled on JCP courses will not be eligible for 24+ Advanced Learning Loan Bursary Fund support
The 24+Advanced Learning Loans Bursary Fund cannot be:
  • Used to pay tuition/ exam fees.
  • Vired between either the  co-existing DLS or ALS fund, nor the 16 – 19  Bursary fund.
  • All applications will be considered on a first come, first served basis.  Being eligible does not guarantee funding.
  • Grants are awarded for the duration of the learners course subject to the continuing availability of funds and there being no change in income available to the learner.  A financial assessment will be carried out each year.

6. Application Process

Applications will be considered by a Panel whose members include the Equality & Diversity Officer and the Principal Training Officer.  The panel will meet on a regular basis in order to ensure that applications are dealt with as swiftly as possible.
Appeals
Should a learner be unsuccessful in an initial application for support from the 24+ Advanced Learning Loans Bursary Fund, s/he will be encouraged to seek advice from the Equality & Diversity Officer who will be able to identify if grounds exist for a re-submission to the Panel, offer advice on alternative possible sources of help and assist the learner in preparing an appeal if necessary.
Appeals must be made in writing and will be considered by the MIS Manager, Quality Manager & Training Quality Manager.

7. Monitoring of Expenditure

The MIS Manager will prepare a financial summary on a monthly basis for the consideration of the panel.  This will include a statement of the total allocations agreed to date, the total funds paid out to date, and the uncommitted balance.  In addition to a financial summary, this will include an analysis, by age and mode of attendance, of the applications received and the decisions made as well as a report showing the percentage retention rate for learners.