Student management

Social work scholarships frozen for eighth year due to cost of living crisis

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Academics and unions have criticized the government for not increasing social work scholarships, which have been frozen for an eighth year despite soaring living costs.

They told Community Care that many students faced financial hardship, including housing costs, which meant some had to sell assets or turn to family or friends for help.

The scholarships for the 2022-3 academic year, announced last month, are the same as those in place since 2014.

Postgraduate recipients will receive a base amount of £3,762.50 in London and £3,362.50 outside the capital, more available for those on low incomes, and a contribution of £4,052 towards the costs of tuition (equivalent to approximately half the cost) per year. Second and third year students selected for a scholarship will receive £4,862.50 outside London and £5,262.50 inside, with professionally awarded awards for part-time students.

The number of new scholarships will also remain capped, at 1,500 postgraduate scholarships and 2,500 undergraduate scholarships over the coming year, as has been the case since 2013. This means that not all affected students receive no scholarship.

Students “forced to leave classes”

Last year, Community Care reported that the seven-year scholarship freeze at the time was causing some students to drop out of classes while others resorted to food banks as Covid lockdowns squeezed other means of earn extra money.

At the time, the grant fix – which not all students receive – was already equivalent to a reduction in real terms of around £500, but things will have gotten significantly worse since UK inflation rates reached their highest level in 40 years,

Janet Melville-Wiseman, chair of the Joint University Council Social Work Education Committee (JUCSWEC), told Community Care that she was “pleased” the scholarships were confirmed earlier than it was. case last year.

Delays in government decisions on scholarship funding had previously put the plans of prospective students in limbo as they waited to find out if they could afford to take places on courses.

“[The recent confirmation] will help students confirm their place in university courses much earlier and, if necessary, notify their employers so that they join the programs in September,” said Melville-Wiseman.

But she added that the lack of an increase in the number of scholarships or the amounts students will receive was of “particular concern” given student poverty and the number of those who have struggled to study over the past few years. last two years.

“Furthermore, the added pressures of unprecedented increases in the cost of living will put unreasonable pressure on mainstream students,” Melville-Wiseman said.

The scholarship has been static for many years and is long overdue for review.

Meanwhile, John McGowan, the general secretary of the Social Workers’ Union (SWU), said the union believed the level of scholarships “needed to be increased urgently”.

“The training, recruitment and retention of social work students is a key issue and it’s no understatement to say that management and funding are key to securing the future of our profession,” McGowan told Community Care.

Emphasizes “too much for students and families”

“A significant number of social work students already have children or other family responsibilities, and the repercussions of a scholarship freeze are felt throughout the family,” he added. “The stress has already been too much for some social work students and their families.

According to McGowan, the SWU has heard from members who had to make “significant sacrifices” to earn their social work degrees, such as putting away their belongings and moving in with friends and families for support. He said others had made the “difficult decision” to sell belongings or had been forced to work excessive hours to avoid homelessness.

“In the face of significant recruitment and retention challenges in social work, we should support those who wish to join the profession and offer cost of living increases to current scholarships, without freezing the amount once again,” said said McGowan. “We already have a shortage of social workers – not offering a scholarship increase, let alone freezing it, is a counterproductive and questionable strategy.”

Accelerated rates are frozen but at higher levels

Student support has also been frozen for those taking accelerated courses, but at much higher levels.

This year’s Frontline cohort will receive £20,000 in London and £18,000 outside the capital, as has been the case since 2019. Think Ahead figures are £17,200 outside London and £19,100 in the capital, rates that have remained constant since 2018.

Student support for the 14-month Step Up to Social Work course, aimed at attracting professionals from related careers in children’s social work, has, like university scholarships, been frozen since 2014.

However, this is at the much higher level of £19,833 and, as with Frontline and Think Ahead, it is guaranteed for all students and there are no tuition fees either.