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Financial Assistance Fund Terms and Conditions 2020/21

Introduction

This document sets out the Terms and Conditions (Ts&Cs) for the management of the Financial Assistance Fund, which provides support for students who are experiencing financial hardship. It is designed to help students remain in higher education, particularly those who need financial help to meet unforeseen costs that cannot be met from other sources of support.

Financial Assistance Fund process

As the funds available are limited, support may only be provided in accordance with the criteria as outlined within this document.

Eligibility criteria

The Financial Assistance Fund is targeted at students with Home fee status in particular need as assessed by the Fund Panel. Students must meet the ‘home’ residency requirements of their UK Student Loans Company provider before applying.

Before applying to the Financial Assistance Fund students MUST have applied for and agreed to take the full amount of their income assessed maintenance loan and/or grant offered to them by their Student Loan Company provider and have exhausted all other avenues of financial assistance.  Alternative arrangements are in place for students who may not apply for a loan due to personal reasons. Please contact Student Futures Financial Support Team at money@chester.ac.uk for further details before submitting an application.

The following students currently registered on a programme of study at the University of Chester may apply to the fund:

  • Undergraduate students, either full time (120 credits) or part time (see below), including distance learners following a higher education course, sandwich courses and any periods of placement.
  • Postgraduate students are expected to have made realistic provision at the start of the course to fund both their tuition fees and living costs. Eligibility requires, either full time (120/180 credits) or part time (see below), following a course of higher education at a level above first degree, including those who are writing up their thesis and therefore not attending the institution.
  • Part time students who started their course prior to Sept 2012 are eligible provided they are registered for at least 50% equivalent of their full-time course. Those starting a course after Sept 2012 are eligible provided they are registered for at least 25% equivalent of their full-time course. Part Time students are expected to have made realistic provision at the start of the course to fund both their tuition fees and living costs
  • Disabled students who are known to the Disability and Inclusion team and who started prior to Sept 2012, and whose disability prevents them from studying at least 50% of a full-time course, may apply, provided they are registered for at least 25% of their full-time course.
  • Students who have interrupted their course of study i.e. not permanently withdrawn and intend to return to their course, are eligible to apply for support from the fund.

Final year students must submit their completed application, including all necessary evidence, at least six weeks before the end of their final term.

Students can apply to the Fund at any point throughout the academic year, and the last date for applications to be received will be Friday 2 July 2021. However, as the fund is limited and may therefore close before this date, it is advised that students submit their application as early as possible.

The Fund will normally consider only one application per student per academic year.  Applications from students who have already received an award in the current academic year will only be considered if their financial circumstances have substantially changed.  Students will be required to provide documentary evidence to support the change in circumstances. Any subsequent application is subject to the annual maximum award of £3,500.  In addition, £3,500 is the maximum award available per level of study in any 12-month period.

Overseas and EU students are not eligible to apply for support from the fund.  However, they may apply to the University’s International Financial Assistance Fund.  Details are available from Student Futures Support.

Assessment

There are two types of award available:

  • Standard awards will be made to students who show a demonstrable need.  These awards can help to meet some of the general living costs associated with being a student e.g. rent/mortgage, food, utility bills.  Assistance with course related costs, e.g. childcare or travel is also available.  However, the Fund cannot help towards the travel costs associated with Experiential Learning Abroad or extracurricular activities.
  • Non-standard awards can help to meet exceptional costs such as repairs to essential household equipment, priority debts, emergency situations including travel costs for close family illness or bereavement (parent or sibling) and also hardship due to burglary or fire (evidence of the emergency will be required). 

Students cannot apply to the Fund for help with paying tuition fees.

The assessment will use assumed income and expenditure figures for undergraduate and postgraduate students.  These are determined annually by the University and are based on best practice guidance from the National Association of Student Money Advisors. Please refer to the Guidance section for further information.

Assessment is made on a case-by-case basis through an assessment of need.  This is calculated by comparing your expenditure to your income in accordance with the fund’s terms and conditions.  If you have unforeseen circumstances these will also be considered.

Provided an application form has been accurately completed, and ALL appropriate documentary evidence supplied, an assessment and decision should be made within four working weeks of submission.

Students are expected to have opened a student bank account with overdraft facility before making an application to the Financial Assistance Fund.  If an applicant does not have a student bank account, they will be asked to provide an explanation as to why they have not accessed this.

Where a student does not receive the maximum student loan amount, they will be required to provide a Parent or Sponsor Pro Forma explaining why their sponsor(s) are unable to financially assist them.

All communication will be via students’ student email accounts.

Allocation

When deciding how to allocate the available funds, priority is given to the following groups of students:

  • Students with children (especially lone parents).
  • Disabled students (especially where the Disabled Students Allowance is unable to meet particular costs). Please note, students may apply to the Fund for help with the cost of University arranged Educational Psychologist diagnostic tests and/or the £200 expected contribution towards the cost of a laptop. Students should first approach the Disability and Inclusion Team for advice at email: disablity@chester.ac.uk or telephone: 01244 511059.
  • Students, under the age of 25, who are considered a Care Leaver.
  • Students who are estranged.
  • Students from Foyers or who are considered homeless.
  • Students receiving the final year loan rate, who are in financial difficulty.
  • Young Adult Carers (under the age of 25).

Priority does not necessarily mean an award will be made.

Students in financial difficulty who are not in one of the priority groups are still encouraged to apply and ALL applicants should provide as much evidence as possible to show why they have a particular need.

Payment of Awards

The University will decide in each case whether payments would best be made as a lump sum, regular instalments or directly to a third party.

Receipt of an award from the Financial Assistance Fund may in certain circumstances affect a student’s entitlement to state benefits and could have implications for tax liability. Students should check with the HM Revenue and Customs for further information. 

Where a student leaves the University before all instalments of an award are paid, any outstanding instalments will be cancelled.

Individual student payments should not exceed £3,500 in any academic year.

Awards are not repayable.

Payments will be made by bank transfer (BACS), either to the student’s account or, if the award is to help with a specific debt e.g. rent, directly to a creditor’s account.

Students may be asked to attend a money management appointment before an award is paid.

Students may be required to interact with Blackbullion, which is an online tool providing digital financial education, as a condition of their award. If they do not meet this condition, any outstanding instalments may be suspended.

Appeals Process

There are two grounds upon which a student may appeal:

  • The assessment was not conducted in accordance with fund guidance
  • The Panel failed to consider some important, relevant information when reaching their decision.

Appeals must be made in writing to the Student Wellbeing Manager within four weeks of the date of the original decision.  Students should clearly state the grounds for their appeal and include additional, relevant information and evidence.  The appeal panel Chair will aim to make an assessment and decision within two working weeks of submission.

Confidentiality

Applications are seen by the Financial Assistance Fund Panel and Student Future's support staff.  It may be necessary however for additional supporting information to be sought from other University staff in order for the Panel to reach a decision.  By signing the Declaration in the Application Form, you are granting permission for us to share your information with other University departments.
Anonymised data from applications may be used by Student Future's Staff for research purposes to support the future direction of the fund.

Data Protection Act 2018

The University of Chester is a data controller in accordance with Data Protection legislation.  Student Support follows University policy in matters of data protection.  Any formal enquiries concerning the use of data noted here should be addressed to the Student Wellbeing Manager.

Fraudulent Information supplied by students.

Where there is reason to suspect that a student has provided misleading or fraudulent information, the University will suspend outstanding payments from the Fund pending the outcome of an investigation. If the University’s suspicion is confirmed following the investigation, the student’s entitlement to claim from the fund is withdrawn permanently. The University may seek recovery of any monies and may instigate disciplinary proceedings.

Failure to disclose all relevant information and / or giving false information will automatically disqualify an application and may also lead to disciplinary procedures resulting in possible expulsion from the University.

Guidance

The application form will request information about your income and, if applicable, your partner’s income.  The following guidance will help you complete this section of the form.

Living with Partner

If you live with a partner you will be assessed as a couple and will therefore need to provide financial evidence for your partner, including evidence of earnings/state benefits and copies of three months’ most recent bank statements.

Maintenance Loan

State the maximum loan you are eligible to receive. If you have not requested a means-tested assessment for the higher rate of loan or if you are not eligible for the maximum loan, please submit the Parents’ Pro Forma (available with the application form) to explain your parents’ circumstances.  
If eligible, you must have applied for and accepted all available funding before requesting support from the Fund.

Alternative arrangements are in place for students who may not apply for a loan due to personal reasons.  Please contact Student Futures Financial Support Team at money@chester.ac.uk for further details before submitting an application.

Maintenance Grant

Include the Maintenance Grant and / or Welsh Assembly Learning Grant in this section.  If you are not eligible for the maximum means-tested Grant and your parents are unable to make the expected contribution, please submit the Parents’ Pro Forma (available with the application form) to explain your parents’ circumstances.

NHS Bursary

If eligible, you should have applied for the full NHS means-tested Bursary, including all available allowances.

NHS Training Grant(s)

If eligible, you should have applied for the full NHS Training Grant including all available allowances e.g. Parental Support

Scholarships / Trusts

If you are a postgraduate student, include any research grants, scholarships or other grants.

Disability Benefits

Only include payments made to your bank account.  Do not include payments made directly to a supplier.

State Benefits

Include all benefits you are receiving and supply documentary evidence for each.

Partner’s net earnings & student’s earnings if post-graduate / part-time

Provide evidence of partner’s earnings e.g. last three months’ pay slips.  Also provide three months’ most recent statements for partner’s bank accounts and any joint current /savings accounts (including ISAs), with an explanation of all transactions of £100 or more.  Postgraduate and part-time students must include evidence of their net earnings (and partner’s if applicable).

Parental / partner contribution 

If you do not receive the full amount of means-tested loan and/or grant, or NHS Bursary, the difference should be entered as parental / partner contribution.  If your parents are unable to provide this expected contribution, they should complete the Parents’ Pro Forma (available with the application form).

Savings

Include all savings, for both you and your partner, even those without immediate access e.g. ISAs, bonds.  Provide three months’ most recent statements with explanations for all transactions of £100 or more, paid in or out.

Pension

Specify the type of pension e.g. state, private or work, and provide evidence of your annual income from this.

Other Income

Include any other income such as savings and specify what that income is. This should include any income earned from property or room rental, share dividends etc.

Postgraduate and PartiTime Students

Postgraduate student and Part-Time students are expected to have made realistic provision, before starting their course, to fund both their tuition fees and living costs.  Minimum expected weekly income after fee payment is:

  • single £185 
  • with one child £148 
  • each additional child £80

State benefits for you or your partner are not considered a reliable source of income.

Bank Statements

Include copies of your most recent, three consecutive months’ bank statements for every account you hold, and if applicable for your partner, up to the application date.  These should be copies of original format statements and NOT downloaded to Excel.  Also provide an explanation for any transactions of £100 or more, paid in or out, for each account.  Failure to do so will delay your application.

 

The application form will request information about your spending and, if applicable, your partner’s spending.  The following guidance will help you complete this section of the form. 

Rent / mortgage

Provide a copy of your rent / mortgage agreement.  We can include rent / mortgage payments up to a maximum ceiling as detailed below:

  • Private / un-catered: £100 per week per person, plus additional £20 per week for each extra person.
  • Catered accommodation: £80 per week per person for semi-catered, £70 per week per person for fully-catered, £100 per week per person for Level 4 students.
  • Living with parents: £30 per week if living with both parents, £40 per week if living with lone parent.  Only if evidence of rent / keep can be supplied.

Council Tax

If you are not exempt, please provide an explanation and supply a copy of your 2020/21 Council Tax bill.

Composite living costs (CLC) 

We can include CLC payments to cover items such as food, clothing, utility bills, mobile phone, entertainment etc. up to a maximum ceiling as follows: £80 per week for single or lone parent student, £124 per week for student with partner.

Childcare costs

We can include childcare costs up to a maximum ceiling as follows:  £175 per child per week, £300 for two children per week.

Life insurance

An allowance will only be considered for students with children.  Evidence must be provided.

Private vehicle costs

For students with dependants and/or course placements, we can include car costs up to a maximum ceiling as follows:  £45 per week for one person, £65 per week for a couple.
Nursing, teaching and social work students can reclaim additional travel costs for placements and should contact their course administrator.

Car Finance

For students with dependants and/or course placements, a fixed amount of £3,000 for the duration of the course (£1,000 per year of study) may be included if a student has purchased a car and has an on-going, finance agreement with a reputable company.  Documentary evidence of the formal agreement MUST be provided. 

Course costs

Course costs are fixed depending on your programme of study:

  • £300 - where course costs are generally lower e.g. English or History
  • £500 - due to higher course costs including specialist equipment and field trips e.g. science subjects, Law, Performing Arts, BEd, subjects within the Faculty of Health and Social Care, Geography, Photography, Fine Art, Performing Arts. 

 

Postgraduate students

Applicants who are undertaking postgraduate study are expected to have made realistic provision, before starting their course, to fund both their tuition fees and living costs.  Minimum expected weekly income after fee payment is:

  • single £185
  • with one child £148
  • each additional child £80

State benefits for you or your partner are not considered a reliable source of income.

Delayed Funding Loans

If a student has not received their loan payment from the Student Loans Company or bursary from NHS Bursaries at the start of term, they may apply for an interim, short-term loan from the fund.

Students are expected to repay the loan once they receive their first instalment of student finance.

Students will need to complete the Delayed Funding Loan application form.

Short-term loans will normally be processed and paid within one working week.  This will be by BACS transfer to a nominated account.

Any loans which remain unpaid once a student has left the University may be passed to debt collection.