Student Finance England Childcare Grant Woes

(6 Posts)
Catkinsthecatinthehat Sun 21-Jul-13 00:55:56

Combined vent and plea for help here!

I'm going back to uni as a mature student to do a vocational degree in September. I actually undertook a degree in an unrelated subject in 1992.

Due to this I don't qualify for loans or maintenance grants. I have one young child and was however eligible to apply for a childcare grant to meet nursery costs, which would have kept my head above water, although they've lost the paperwork twice and keep giving me contradictory information. Today I was informed on the phone that my application for the childcare grant has been rejected (although they've not informed me in writing). Apparently the 'regulations' have changed and they no longer base the decision for 2013/14 assistance on costs, but on parental income from the tax year 2010/11.

These regulations are not publicly available apparently, but from what I can glean from the helpline they look at combined family income from 2 years ago, and subtract £8430 from the total. If the family income after the deduction is more than £148pw, the maximum allowed for a claim for a single child, then the application is disallowed. Completely. No tapering, no reduced grant, nada if you and your partner's combined income was over £16100 for the qualifying period.

Now I can't find these regulations anywhere. Nowhere on the Student Finance site is this made clear and in fact the information available makes it look like childcare assistance is normally available to people studying full time with children. And obviously it's pointless to look at someone's income up to April 2011 when they are leaving their job in late 2013 to go back to college.

I pointed this out repeatedly to the person on the phone who simply repeated the mantra "You are eligible but you don't qualify, you are eligible but you don't qualify".

Has anyone else faced this? I'm going to appeal but I'm on the back foot here as I appear to have fallen foul of regulations which aren't available to me, and with decisions based on outdated financial information.

changeforthebetter Sun 21-Jul-13 01:25:26

Can you speak to Student Welfare at you HE institution? Mine were invaluable in dealing with SFE shower o' shite What they have said "eligible but don't qualify" is nonsensical angry

Catkinsthecatinthehat Sun 21-Jul-13 07:22:10

Thanks - I'm applying for bursaries this week and will throw myself at the mercy of student welfare when I arrive. I checked and it's the 2011/12 tax year taken into account, not 2010/11 as I said. But how crazy to be refused childcare help for full time study from September 2013 because of my circumstances until April 2012. In fact my earnings were below this apparent £16k threshold, but they are taking my partner's income into account and won't assess me separately.

Anyway I'm going to appeal and ask for a copy of these new and secret regulations.

for ordinary student loans you can ask for a Current Year Assessment for income - this might also apply for the childcare part?

And just FYI, if you do do CYA, then they use those same figures for three years until they catch up with the tax year they're supposed to be using. So if your current income levels are low, then you can do quite well wink. It does get complicated when you have to get the right form to confirm your income the following year, we struggled a lot with the phone line people not understanding/knowing what we were trying to do, and had to point them to the page on their own website shock.

Catkinsthecatinthehat Sun 21-Jul-13 09:25:51

Thanks Ishall. I'll appeal and ask for a CYA. I did query this but the person on the phone indicated that as my partner had a full time job it made no difference that I had a low income as he would always bump the family income over the very low qualifying threshold. It doesn't really seem possible under the these new regulations for a working couple to qualify, only low-income lone parents.

So at the moment it looks like I'll have to cover everything upfront (fees, living expenses, childcare) on part time earnings with no access to any loan or grant. Eeek. Would anyone like to buy my kidney? grin

I just feel generally frustrated with it all. The rule banning people with previous degrees taking out student loans came in a few years ago - it's not always been the case. I've written to my MP twice in the last 6 weeks without a response.

Student Finance England just seem chaotic. They've lost my paperwork twice, their processes are labyrinthine, the regulations secret, the people on the phone give contradictory information, and they told me yesterday their backlog is so bad no post received by them in the past month has been opened!

FreeWee Wed 08-Jan-14 19:35:19

Have you got an update on this Catkins? How did your appeal go? We're going through something similar at the moment and wondered if we'd get any joy.

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