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Extend care leavers bursary to apprentices, ministers told

The report was released on Tuesday (Andrew Matthews/PA)
The report was released on Tuesday (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The Scottish Government should extend a bursary for care-experienced students to those in apprenticeships, ministers have been told.

A report published on Tuesday by a short life working group set up to investigate barriers to apprenticeships faced by those who have been in care called for support similar to that given in England and Wales.

The group also urged the Scottish Government to press the UK Government for an increase in apprenticeship wages, which currently sit at just £5.28, but will increase to £6.40 in April, for those who have been in care.

The report pushed for the extension of the care-experienced student bursary to those in apprenticeships, mirroring a scheme already in place in England and Wales which offers £3,000 in the first year.

The scheme for Scottish students pays out £9,000 a year in lieu of a student loan.

Tony Scally, chair of the working group, said: “Apprenticeships are an attractive option for young people with care experience, offering a wage while gaining qualifications.

“But the current support landscape is cluttered, over-complicated and bureaucratic.

“It means young people are stuck in a system that instead of helping them on, actively holds them back.

“Our recommendations offer a clear way forward for the Scottish Government to improve not only apprenticeship uptake for care-experienced young people, but retention and completion levels too.”

The report also called for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to offer more support to those who have been in care as they enter the job market, with a particular focus on those in supported accommodation, and urged the Scottish Government to consider how it spends money on skills programmes, as well as to make “better use of the apprenticeship levy”.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) – which administers Scottish apprenticeships on behalf of the Government – welcomed the report.

“We want to be confident that we are doing everything possible to ensure that care-experienced young people are able to benefit from entering and succeeding in apprenticeships in the same way as their wider peer group,” SDS head of equality and diversity Fergus McMillan said.

“We are pro-actively considering the recommendations and in particular the role that mentoring plays in supporting young people to enter and sustain an apprenticeship.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Apprenticeships are vital for supporting young people into valuable rewarding careers.

“This is why our funding contributions for Modern Apprentices are weighted towards young people, particularly the 16-19 age group, with enhanced funding contributions for those who are care experienced up to age 29.

“We will take the time to consider the report and its recommendations in detail.”

The UK Government has been contacted for comment.