Publication - FOI/EIR release

Student Support Review: FOI release

Published: 17 May 2018

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Published:
17 May 2018
Student Support Review: FOI release

FOI reference: FOI/18/01136
Date received: 14 April 2018
Date responded: 8 May 2018

Information requested

Please supply the official Scottish Government Ministerial statement on the finalised student support review that has recently concluded?

Please advise/disclose if there is any other recorded information that the Scottish Government hold to demonstrate your commitment to tackling student poverty other than the £5m funding allocated to the student support funding for next academic year?

Regarding the £5m funding allocation for student Support Funding for the next academic year, please advise how this funding will be distributed without discrimination across both FE and HE?

Where the lines of accountability and audit are drawn? i.e. the College, the Scottish Funding Council or any other department?

Please advise from your strategic planning and projections if this £5m will cover the amount required to cover necessary expenses and costs for all students who are eligible? If not please supply any form of recorded information that would show a more accurate funding figure that would be required to cover the necessary expenses and costs for all students who are eligible?

Finally, please supply the full cost to the public purse for the recent student support review from start to finish?

Response

I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested.

Tackling Poverty

'Every child, every chance: tackling child poverty delivery plan 2018-2022' contains a section on 'Support for Students and Communities from Further and Higher Education' at 'Chapter 5: Helping Families in Other Ways'. This information is available at: https://beta.gov.scot/publications/child-chance-tackling-child-poverty-delivery-plan-2018-22/

As part of the Programme for Government published last year, we committed to introducing a scheme to fund access to free sanitary products in schools, colleges and universities and to consider further action to support others on low incomes in light of the findings of the current pilot scheme in Aberdeen. This commitment also forms part of Every child, every chance – The Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018-22.

Our immediate priority is providing access to sanitary products to students at school, college or university. Officials are currently working with key stakeholders to ensure provision is put in place by the start of academic year 2018/19.

Discretionary Funding

Further Education Every college has a Discretionary Fund from which students can apply for help. The Discretionary Funds are specifically targeted to help students who have financial difficulties that might prevent them getting access to further education or from continuing their course. Funds are allocated to colleges by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) but it is for individual institutions to decide on how to allocate discretionary funding.

Higher Education (HE) Discretionary Funds are intended to provide non-repayable assistance for students in financial difficulties in order for them to access and/or continue in Higher Education (HE) and are paid in addition to any other forms of student support. In HE, Discretionary Funds are allocated by Scottish Ministers (via Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)) and are administered by individual universities and colleges.

SAAS issues guidance to institutions each year but It is for institutions to decide how to disburse funds to individual students. The funds should be targeted to students in particular need. Priority groups include students with at least one dependent child, care experienced students and students who are carers.

Further and Higher Education Student Support Funding

Further Education For students undertaking Further Education courses, the Scottish Government makes funding available to the SFC, this year at a record level of over £107 million, made up of bursary, childcare and discretionary funds. The SFC then distribute this funding to the colleges and it is the responsibility of each college to use the funding it receives to provide financial support to its students in line with the policy guidance they receive for that purpose from SFC. Higher Education

For students undertaking Higher Education (HE) courses, tuition fees are paid directly to a student's college or university following an application and award of tuition fee support from the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). All bursaries, grants and the disabled students allowance (DSA) are paid directly to the student.

SAAS. Students apply to SAAS for loans, who assess the claims and issue the award notice to advise how much of a loan they are entitled to. This information is then passed to the Student Loans Company (SLC) who make the loan payment.

Independent Review of Student Support: Costs Please find attached total costs associated with the Review, including itemised breakdowns.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have requested. The reasons why we don't have the information are explained below.

Section 17(1) of FOISA (information not held) requires the Scottish Government to notify you if it does not have the information you requested. The Scottish Government does not have the information you have asked for because a Ministerial statement in response to the independent review of student support has not been made. Further to this, it has not yet been confirmed how the Scottish Government will respond. An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test

An exemption under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The exemptions recognise the need for Ministers to have a private space within which to seek advice and views from officials before reaching the settled public position which will be given in whatever final response is given. Disclosing the content of free and frank briefing material on strategic planning and projections on the use of additional £5 million in funds allocated for initial implementation of the recommendations made by the independent review of student support will substantially inhibit such briefing in the future, particularly because discussions on the issue are ongoing and final decisions have not been taken.

These exemptions are subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemptions. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemptions. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing a private space within which officials can provide free and frank advice and views to Ministers in briefing. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly answer Parliamentary questions, provide sound information to Parliament (to which they are accountable), and robustly defend the Government's policies and decisions. They need full and candid advice from officials to enable them to do so. Premature disclosure of this type of information could lead to a reduction in the comprehensiveness and frankness of such advice and views in the future, which would not be in the public interest.

About FOI

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG