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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Discretionary Learner Support

If you are aged 19 or over and having trouble meeting the costs of participating in further education at your college, Discretionary Learner Support might be one source of help.

What can you use Discretionary Learner Support for?

Discretionary Learner Support is available in colleges and sixth form colleges to help with learning costs if you are aged 19 or over.

The funds are prioritised for those who face financial hardship. They can be used to help with:

  • financial hardship and emergencies
  • childcare costs (for Ofsted-registered childcare)
  • accommodation costs, for those who wish to access specialist courses or who are unable to access courses locally
  • essential course-related equipment, materials and field trips
  • travel costs

Colleges will take into account whether there are alternative sources of help available. Follow the links below for details of alternative sources of help with accommodation costs if you’re studying away from home, and information on help with transport costs for under 19s.

If you are aged 16-19, you can apply for a bursary from your school, college, academy or other learning provider. Follow the link below to find information on the Bursary Fund.

Who is eligible?

To be eligible to apply, you must:

  • be 19 or over
  • have been accepted onto and be studying a programme of learning funded by the Skills Funding Agency

Colleges determine priority groups and maximum amounts they award. The focus of funds are for financially disadvantaged people aged 19 or over, who need support in areas such as childcare, transport, books and equipment.

Who is not eligible?

You can't claim if you are:

  • under 19
  • receiving full public funding for higher education
  • on a learndirect course
  • on a waged apprenticeship training scheme
  • on a Community Learning course
  • receiving support from the 16-19 Bursary Fund

How much do you get?

Colleges and providers set their own criteria and manage their own procedures. This means that the amounts available, and the way funds are allocated, may differ between institutions.

Some funds, including childcare and residential funds, have maximum amounts available.

How is it paid?

If you qualify, funding could take the form of a direct payment to you, or a payment to someone else on your behalf (for example, a landlord). Your payment could be a loan, which you have to pay back - or a grant, which you don't.

How and when to apply

You have to apply directly to your college or learning provider. Each college or learning provider has its own application process. You should speak to your tutor, student support or welfare officer.

Effect on other financial help

You can claim if you also receive other grants and funds, including:

  • Professional and Career Development Loan
  • Care to Learn
  • Disability Living Allowance, which is ignored when assessing income

But bear in mind that Discretionary Learner Support is intended to meet special needs and circumstances which can't reasonably be covered by other forms of help.

How to appeal

Each college will provide information about their scheme, including information about how to appeal.

What else you need to know

Student support staff will be able to advise you on whether you qualify for other sources of funding.

Useful contacts

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