Support for Young People in Kinship Care who are thinking of going on to study in further education or University
Kinship carers contacting our advice service are often worried about how they are going to support a young person through further and higher education. It is not always easy to find out what help might be available. If you are raising a young person who is in further or higher education, you may be able to get help from the resources below.
You will usually continue to be eligible for child benefit, child tax credit or child element in universal credit/pension credit whilst your child remains in non-advanced education or training. In addition to this, certain students aged 16 to 19 may be entitled to a bursary of £1,200 a year. This includes those who are ‘looked after’, care leavers and disabled young people. Other young people may be eligible for a discretionary bursary – they should check with their school, college, or training provider.
Many kinship carers and young people are not aware that they may be entitled to a grant if they want to go to university. Most kinship children are entitled to a grant which does not have to be repaid to help support them. This is because they are treated as “independent” if their parents have died or they are estranged from them. Young people in kinship care come under the category of ‘estranged students.’
Different universities use different definitions for this category, but it basically relates to estrangement from parents. The most reliable definition is that of the Student Loans Company. In its document on ‘Higher Education Student Finance in England Assessing Financial Entitlement’ – it says:
The student is irreconcilably estranged from their parents (paragraph (2)(1)(e)). This would be the case where:
- They have communicated with neither of their parents for the period of one year before the beginning of the AY for which they are being financially assessed or
- They can demonstrate on other grounds that they are irreconcilably estranged from their parents. If they have communicated with either parent during that year, they can nevertheless still be regarded as irreconcilably estranged. It is likely to be easier for a student to demonstrate that they are ‘irreconcilably estranged’ if the estrangement has endured for a significant length of time before the student applies for support.
So, whatever the exact wording of the definition of any university (some of them confusingly talk about ‘students who are studying without the support or approval of their family network’), young people in kinship care are regarded as ‘estranged students’.
You can find a copy of the Higher Education Student Finance in England Assessing Financial Entitlement by clicking here.
You can also obtain further information about student finance for estranged students by clicking here.
‘Looked after’ children & higher education
If you are raising a ‘looked after’ child, children’s services have specific duties to assess and meet their care and support needs when they turn 16 – particularly in respect of employment, education, and training. A ‘looked after child’ is entitled to a personal adviser and pathway plan which should set out the help they will receive when they leave care. This support will continue until they are 21, or longer if they remain in education and includes a bursary of £2000 for higher education (above and beyond anything else they are entitled to). You will need to apply to your local authority for this bursary. It does not have to be repaid!
You can also obtain further information by clicking here.
For further information and advice about financial support for students:
Buttle UK also provides grants and support to vulnerable young people. You can obtain further information by clicking here.
Benefits for 16 and 17 year olds
Benefits for 16 and 17 year olds are limited, and a young person can only make a new Universal Credit claim if any of the following apply:
- you have limited capability for work, or you have medical evidence and are waiting for a Work Capability Assessment
- you are caring for a severely disabled person
- you are responsible for a child
- you are in a couple with responsibility for at least one child and your partner is eligible for Universal Credit
- you are pregnant and it is 11 weeks or less before your expected week of childbirth
- you have had a child in the last 15 weeks
- you do not have parental support, for example you are estranged from your parents and you are not under local authority care
If a young person is studying full-time
A young person can also make a claim if they are in full-time further education and any of the following apply:
- you do not have parental support
- you have limited capacity for work, and you are entitled to Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- you are responsible for a child
- you are in a couple with responsibility for a child and your partner is eligible for Universal Credit
‘Staying Put’ Information for Kinship Foster Carers
If you are still fostering a young person when they turn 18 and you both decide to go on living together then this is known in law as a ‘staying put arrangement’. This applies automatically, if the young person has been looked after by the local authority for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14.
Staying put is not fostering, but the local authority has a legal duty to support both you and the young person to go on living together until they become 21 or move out if before then. This must include financial support and you must be paid an allowance that will cover all reasonable costs of supporting the young person to remain living with you.
If the young person, aged over 18, moves out and then returns to live with you before they reach 21, the staying put duties no longer apply and the local authority does not have to continue to support you as the carer, although some local authorities choose to do so.
You can obtain further information on ‘Staying Put’ by clicking here.
If you are no longer fostering the young person when they reach 18, such as because you have become their special guardian, staying put arrangements do not apply at all, even if you previously fostered the young person.
But, children who were looked after by the local authority immediately before the making of a Special Guardianship Order may qualify for advice and assistance under section 24 Children Act 1989. The child must:
- have reached the age of 16, but not the age of 21;
- have a Special Guardianship Order in force if less than 18 years old;
- have had a Special Guardianship Order in force when they reached the age of 18;
- have been looked after by a local authority immediately before the making of the Special Guardianship Order.
If a child meets these criteria, then the local authority which last looked after the child is under a duty to provide advice and assistance only.
You should contact your local authority for further information on ‘staying put’ and also how to access advice a guidance.
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