Student parents: what support is available?
Juggling family life with university can be hard, but you’re not alone and there’s lots of resources and support available to support you.
This includes government support, such as the Parents’ Learning Allowance and Childcare Grant, both of which we explain more about below.
Your uni should also have a nursery available, plus other support such as parent societies and nearby health centres to help you feel better equipped establishing a balance between being a parent and a student.
It’s worth noting that if you have a child, you are automatically considered an 'independent student'. This means that your parents' income won't affect any loans and grants you might get, no matter how old you are or whether you’re living with them.
So what financial support can I get?
This allows you to claim back 85% of your childcare costs. Because it’s a grant, it won’t need to be paid back. The exact amount depends on your household income, the cost of your childcare and the number of children you have.
To be eligible you need to:
- be a full-time higher-education student (part-time students won’t be able to apply)
- have a child under 15, or under 17 if they have special educational needs
What year of your study you’re in doesn’t make a difference to the amount you receive – so third years aren't eligible to a bigger cash injection than fresher students.
For the 2018/19 academic year the maximum amount you can receive is:
- up to £164.70 a week for one child
- up to £282.36 a week for two or more children
This is usually paid into your account at the same time as your student finance.
You’ll find out exactly what you're eligible for when you hear back from your application. You'll have to fill in a form at various points in the year, with an estimate of what your childcare will cost, and then take a second form to your childcare providers so they can confirm how much you actually spent.
The grant only covers Ofsted-registered childcare, so you can't use it for informal babysitting. Find an Ofsted-registered childminder on GOV.UK.
Be careful: GOV.UK warns that if you don’t give details about your childcare provider on your application form, your first payment will be a maximum of £123.38 a week or 85% of your estimate (whichever is less).
Learn more about the Childcare Grant including eligibility, application forms and more.
Parents' Learning Allowance
This is a lump sum for full-time undergraduate student parents (or those on an initial Teacher Training course). You can spend this however you want and it doesn’t have to be paid back.
It’s paid on top of any other student finance you’re eligible for, and won’t affect any other benefits or tax credits you might be able to get.
Depending on your household income, in the 2018/19 academic year, you could get between £50 and £1,669 a year.
Again, head to the Gov.uk website for more information on the Parent's Learning Allowance.
Most students don't qualify for benefits, but if you're a single parent or your partner is also a student, that can change. You may be able to claim:
- Income Support
- Husing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance
- Council Tax Benefit
Special Support Grant
You might be able to get something called the Special Support Grant when you apply for student finance – this is more likely if you’re a lone parent. Unlike a Maintenance Grant, the Special Support Grant doesn’t affect the amount of Maintenance Loan you can get, so you’ll receive more money overall.
Extra financial help from your university
You may also be able to get help from your university or college on top of your student loan. To find out whether you can get anything, contact your university’s student services department once you know how much you’ll receive in student finance. Each uni has slightly different rules about when and how to apply – the best thing to do is to get in touch as soon as possible to find out what you’re expected to do.
What's happened to the Access to Learning Fund?
The Access to Learning Fund ceased in April 2015. You should approach your university directly to find out what support they can offer.
Facilities and support you can expect at university
Most universities have childcare centres for students with children. These may be more conveniently located than other options you come across. However, places are limited, and there is lots of demand, especially as university staff may use these facilities too. Try to contact the nursery well before you start your course to secure a place.
Many universities have societies where student parents can get together. This can be great for finding people in the same position as you, to socialise or study with.
Someone to talk to
University counselling services, pastoral staff and the students' union are there to support you too. These services are confidential, but they may be able to support you in talking to tutors about deadline extensions etc.
Many university sites have health centres, which may be more convenient than other medical centres in the area. However, while some offer services like childhood immunisation, others don't; so make sure you know what they offer.
What to look for when you applying to uni
What other students say
Some things about a university won't be in the prospectus and you'll only learn about them through other parents or specific staff, such as how supporting lecturers are of the extra pressure of juggling studies with parenting.
Ask at an open day or try and contact the university's student services or parents' society.
Facilities on offer
Look carefully at facilities which the university offers – not just 'is there a nursery?', but 'how big is it?', 'where is it located?' and 'what are the opening hours?'.
As mentioned, universities offer extra bursaries on top of the main finance package. Make sure you investigate what's available when researching courses.
Top tips from student parents