Young students receiving the government’s new Universal Credit benefit will be entitled to the 16-19 bursary, after the Education and Skills Funding Agency updated its rules.
In its weekly update, the ESFA said it made the change to reflect the ongoing rollout of Universal Credit, the government’s flagship welfare reform, which was introduced to replace six working-age benefits, including Jobseeker’s Allowance, and create one single monthly payment.
The 16-19 bursary replaced the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) in 2011. Unlike EMA, it is paid directly to the educational establishment rather than the learner and is worth up to £1,200 a year. The learning provider decides how it is spent, but it can be used to pay for travel, books or given as cash.
The bursary is available to “vulnerable students”, including recent care leavers or those in receipt of disability benefits.
The funding agency updated its definition to include students receiving income support or Universal Credit because they are financially supporting themselves and anyone who is dependent on them and living with them, such as a child or a partner.
The ESFA said the category has been “reworded slightly to aide clarity” following feedback from stakeholders.
However, Nicola Aylward, head of learning for young people at the Learning and Work Institute, said it was disappointing that the government had not taken this opportunity to include young adult carers in the "vulnerable students" group in the 16-19 bursary criteria.
In February the Learning and Work Institute called for changes in the eligibility criteria for the bursary to unlock extra financial support for young adult carers.
Ms Aylward added: "Young adult carers miss out on a range of opportunities because of their caring responsibilities. They often live in workless or low-income households and can’t afford the travel, equipment and other costs associated with learning.
"A bursary of up to £1,200 per year can make the difference between a young adult carer staying in learning or dropping out. We urge the government to review the financial and other support available to young adult carers and to give them the opportunities they deserve.”