SUPPORT FUND (DISCRETIONARY) 2009/10 CRITERIA & GUIDANCE NOTES (Terms and Conditions) Please Note: Students must read the following document carefully before filling in their Support Fund Application. By signing and ticking the box in the declaration section of the application form students are acknowledging that they have read this document in its entirety and that they agree with all the terms and conditions set out in this document. SUPPORT FUNDS (Discretionary) 2009/10 Introduction 1. The payment of Support Funds (Discretionary), is specifically earmarked for the purpose of providing assistance for students in particular financial hardship. 2. Grants for Support Funds shall be subject to such conditions and requirements, including those in this document, as the Department may from time to time prescribe. Colleges shall ensure that any grant for Support Funds is used only in accordance with such terms and conditions. Failure to comply with the terms and conditions could result in Support Funds being withheld from the college or colleges concerned. CRITERIA FOR THE OPERATION OF SUPPORT FUNDS (DISCRETIONARY) CRITERIA Students must be enrolled on a full-time or part-time nationally validated professional and technical course at LEVELS 1 to 5, listed on the National Database of Accredited Qualifications (NDAQ) or prescribed list of courses. Support Funds (Discretionary) cannot be used for the purpose of assisting Full-time HE students in the FE Sector in meeting the cost of tuition fees (assistance is already available through tuition fee loans) Students undertaking GCSE, GCE, AS Levels or A Level provision can only receive assistance as part of a clear progression route to a higher level of qualification. Students must be at least 18 or attain the age of 18 during the academic year (1 st July to the end of their course). The definition of ‘Students aged 18 and over’ in each of the above categories may include any student who reaches the age of 18 on or after the 1 July preceding the start of the academic year. Within these overall parameters, colleges have the discretion to decide eligibility criteria and administrative procedures, provided that such criteria and procedures are applied on a consistent basis for all students. This could include students who become eligible from the date of their 18th birthday, or from the beginning of the term following their 18th birthday, providing there is no double funding from other sources e.g. Education and Library Boards. Students must meet the residency requirements as detailed in the Education [Student Support] Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007. Students must have explored all other avenues of assistance before applying to the Support Funds. All students who are eligible for an FE Award must in the first instance apply to Student Finance NI. Colleges should not accept applications from students who have not applied for an FE Award unless exceptional financial circumstances warrant such additional support. Course hours can include time on a work / course placement. Students on Higher Education courses MUST have agreed to take the full amount offered to them by the SLC. Support Funds are not available to students who are repeating courses/modules or to students who are continually absent from a course due to absence, including sickness. Support Funds are not available to students on a course that attracts a training allowance such as Training for Success, European Funded Projects, New Deal, Modern Apprenticeships, other publicly funded programmes or full cost recovery courses. Additional criteria may be introduced or existing criteria relaxed if the funding is not sufficient to meet the number of applications received OR if the number of applications is low and therefore additional funds are available In establishing the arrangements to apply within the college for the award of Support Funds to students, the college should ensure that due account is taken of the availability and extent of support to the individual student from other sources such as FE Awards, Student Loans or social security benefits such as Income Support, income-related JobSeeker’s Allowances, Working Family Tax Credits, Educational Maintenance Allowance or Housing Benefit. A record of these should be retained for audit purposes. Colleges might also consider whether the claimed deficit between income and expenditure constitutes real need and cannot be reduced to a manageable level by the student. Colleges should actively promote FE Awards to all students who seek financial support in the first instance. Colleges must notify the WELB immediately if a student has been withdrawn from their course Colleges should check the following before giving help in all cases:- Proof of identity; That the student is registered at the college for a course; That the student has applied for a Loan/FE Award, Basic eligibility (e.g. 3 years’ residency and settled status as detailed in the Education [Student Support] Regulations N Ireland 2007; The student’s financial resources and needs; and That the student signs a declaration The procedure for making an application for Support Funds within a college should be set out in a document approved by the Governing Body. The Governing Body should also agree on the level and extent of reports which it requires in order to monitor both the demand for funds and the operation of the system in place. ADVICE TO STUDENTS Colleges should ensure that students seeking assistance from Support Funds are advised that payments may affect their entitlement to social security benefits, particularly Income Support, Income Related Job-Seekers allowance, Housing Benefit and Working Family Tax Credits. Receipt of Support Funds may in certain circumstances have implications for tax liability and colleges and students may wish to check with the Inland Revenue for further information. ARE YOU ELIGIBLE? Students can apply for assistance from the Support Fund if they meet the following conditions: a) Age: Students aged 18 or over on 1 July 2009, OR Those students who attain the age of 18 during the current academic year b) Course and Attendance: Students must be enrolled and in attendance on a vocational course, which is externally accredited, i.e. a course which leads to examination or assessment and are on the NDAQ database. Jobskills and New Deal trainees as well as students repeating courses / modules of study are not eligible to receive Support Funds. c) Residency: Students must meet the residency requirements set out in residency in the residency guidelines as detailed in the Education (Student Support) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007. Evidence may be required and the student finance office in the college will advise the student on what they need to provide. d) Evidence of financial difficulties: *Students must be able to show that they need financial help and that they have explored other ways of supporting themselves. Students MUST contact Studentfinanceni *Students on Higher Education full time courses MUST have taken all funding available to them from student finance NI and show their final financial assessment letter to support their application. e) EU Students who have 3 years residency in Northern Ireland prior to the 1st September 2009 and who have the relevant documentation to prove this are eligible to apply. Students who do not meet the 3 years residency in Northern Ireland May be eligible for tuition fee support for FE courses. The Belfast Metropolitan College Support Fund Panel will decide which students should receive support and the level of support. Applicants will be advised of the panel’s decision in writing. f) Income Support Funds is a mean tested grant based on the student’s income or that of their parents/guardian or spouse. Therefore evidence of income from one or more of these sources must be supplied to support their application. i.e Both parents but in cases where parents are divorced or separated evidence of the divorce or separation must also be presented. Students who are claiming to be separated or divorced from their spouse/partner must also provide evidence of the separation or divorce. PLEASE SEE NOTES ON INCOME CATEGORIES FOR STUDENTS IN THE GUIDANCE NOTES. Please Note: All Students must supply their income Please Note: Lack of income must also be proved STUDENTS REPEATING COURSES OR WHO ARE NOT MAKING ACADEMIC PROGRESS CANNOT CLAIM SUPPORT FUNDS WHAT HELP CAN STUDENTS GET? FEES Tuition Note: - The Support Fund is unable to provide support for tuition fees for full-time higher education students. These students should apply to studentfinanceni for assistance with tuition fees loans. GRANT Help may be available for: - Books / practice materials Travel, Living costs, e.g. childcare, rent, fuel, food. SUPPORT FUND GUIDANCE NOTES PLEASE READ BEFORE COMPLETING APPLICATION FORM. IDENTITY AND AGE Students must be 18 years old or over to apply for support funds. ALL students must supply evidence of their date of birth. Only Original documents will be accepted. Documentation students may use are: A current passport (plus any visas they may have) or a valid driving license or failing these methods a birth certificate plus a utility bill with the student’s current address. STUDENT ID CARD FROM BELFAST METROPOLITAN COLLEGE Students must provide evidence of being enrolled in the college. This can be the student ID card or the receipt which would have been given to them at time of enrolment. PROOF OF ADDRESS Students living at home: Must provide evidence of their address such as a bank statement, letter from government agencies eg SSA, mobile phone bill etc Students living away from home: must provide evidence of rent payment, utility bills and any other costs recorded on their application form. Expenditures cannot be taken into account if there is no evidence to support them. MARITAL STATUS Proof of separation or divorce should be supplied for parents if the student’s application is means tested on their income or proof of the student’s separation or divorce from their spouse/partner if the student’s application is mean tested on their own income. Please see notes on income categories for students in the guidance notes. RESIDENCY International students are not eligible to apply for support funds. All other students must indicate on their application forms where they have lived for the 3 years prior to the 1 st September before the start of their course. Some students may have to fill in a Residency Sub form and provide evidence to support this. If in doubt, speak to the student finance office. TUTOR’S SIGNATURE All forms must be signed by the student’s course tutor or course coordinator or they will not be accepted. STUDENT DECLARATION Students must read, tick the box and sign this section if they agree with the terms and conditions. Otherwise the form cannot be accepted by the student finance office. BANK ACCOUNT DETAILS Support Funds can only be paid into a UK bank account using the BACs system. i.e sort code with 6 digits (00-00-00) and an account number with 8 digits (00-00-00-00). Students must provide evidence which clearly shows these details such as a cheque or lodgement book or a bank statement. (Bank Cards will not be accepted) OTHER SOURCES OF FUNDING There are other sources of funding available to students from studentfinanceni i.e FE full and part time awards and HE tuition fee loans, maintenance loans and grants and EMA. All students must provide evidence that they have explored all other avenues of funding before applying for support funds. Evidence of this will be the award notification letters or refusal letters. HE students must show their final financial assessment letter and not the payment schedule. PREVIOUS STUDY Students must include all courses they have started to study regardless of the outcome or level of the course from age 11. Withholding any information regarding previous studies may result in a fraudulent claim and the application for support will be terminated. If students have not applied for the other sources of funding because they have studied at the same or higher level of education before, then they must supply copies of their certificates to support this if they do not have a refusal letter from these sources. FINCIANCIAL SECTIONS Students/Parents/Guardians/Spouse/Partner should read this section carefully and fill in any relevant sections that apply to them. Incomplete forms will not be assessed without this information. The onus is on the student to provide this information and to prove their need for financial assistance in these sections. Financial details for student’s parents/guardian/spouse/partner: Evidence to be supplied: Total earned income P60 or last 3 payslips Self employed Gross yearly income verified by an accountant on official headed paper Total unearned income yearly Property and land letting, rent and profits from furnished letting and other income from property, grounds rent etc, most be verified by an accountant on official headed paper Social security benefits appropriate SSA documents, or copy of recent bank account or post office account statements. Child Maintenance Court Order or other SSA document Please Note: Lack of income must also be proved Please Note: Without all the relevant documentation applications can not be assessed and will be returned to the student as incomplete. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure all the relevant documentation is supplied. Working Tax Credit documentation can be used to show what income is coming into the household and to validate who is working or not working. Student financial details and expenditure: Dependant students income will not be taken into consideration when means testing. All students must fill in the relevant sections and supply evidence (as listed above) of income and expenditures. Where a student is claiming to be living in rented accommodation, evidence of rent payments must be provided and receipt for all other expenses must be provided. The application form cannot be assessed without this information. Please Note: We would advise students to liaise with their course tutor or course coordinator to ascertain what books, equipment and materials they will be expected to obtain for their course. In some cases the tutor may have a list of items that will be needed for the course and this can be submitted to support your expensive claim. If you course has a mandatory list then speak to the student finance office about this. STUDENT STATEMENT This section will give the student the chance to explain in their own words why they are experiencing financial difficulty and may be used by the panel during the decision making process. The Panel may require additional evidence to support this statement. Please see the evidence checklist at the end of this document for further detail on evidence needed. ASSESSMENT OF SUPPORT FUND APPLICATION FORMS The Support Fund Panel assesses the application forms from students using the criteria and means test as set out by Department for Employment and Learning as failure to comply with the terms and conditions could result in Support Funds being withheld from the college or colleges concerned. The college also has the right to use discretion and when this is used it is applied equally to all students. The assessment is based on: Age Residency Course type, level, method of attendance and duration Previous study Other funding available to students Income levels Course related expenditure Any special needs Attendance Other factors that the Support Fund Panel may deem to be relevant Forms which are not signed by a tutor/course coordinator and/or student will not be assessed. APPEAL PROCESS The Support Fund Panel assesses the application forms from students using the criteria and means test as set out by Department for Employment and Learning as failure to comply with the terms and conditions could result in Support Funds being withheld from the college or colleges concerned. The college also has the right to use discretion and when this is used it is applied equally to all students. Students will be informed in writing of the outcome of their application. If the student disagrees with the decision of the Panel the student has the right to appeal in writing to the Student Services Manager and should do so within 28 days of the date of their notification letter (this time frame may be reduced for late applicants due to the end of the financial year commitments). If students fail to appeal within this time frame, their application is considered closed and they will need to make a fresh application before the final closing date for support funds. If a student has been awarded support funds and disagrees with the amount given they should proceed as set out above. The same time frames, final closing dates and reduced time frame for late applications applies. Under no circumstances will application forms, appeals, changes in circumstances, submission of late attendance certificates or reassessments be considered after the final closing date for Support Funds. The final closing date for applying for support funds will be announced during the academic year and all staff and students will be notified by email and posters. Details will also be posted on mybelfastmet site. PAYMENT OF SUPPORT FUNDS TO STUDENTS Payments will be made in instalments and the number of instalments will be determined by the amount awarded to the student and when the student applies. The maximum number of instalments will be 3. i.e one in each term. Before making payments to students the college will send an attendance certificate to the student to be signed by their tutor. The tutor needs to indicate the student’s level of attendance. If the level of attendance drops below 80%, then the student’s initial award will be reduced based on the attendance percentage. Students will be given a date by which to return the attendance certificates and if they fail to do so will result in payments being stopped and their application being terminated including any childcare support, regardless of circumstances. In this case students will have to make a new application (unless it’s past the final closing date). DISCLAIMER The Belfast Metropolitan College can not be held responsible for undelivered post from the college. FRAUDULENT CLAIMS AND APPLICATIONS. It is College policy to inform the police in all cases where there is prima facie evidence of an attempt to defraud the college, or any other organization from whom funding is obtained. This applies both in cases where false information is given and where the relevant information is not disclosed. It should be noted that information will be shared with other relevant bodies to establish whether a prima facie case exists. CHILDCARE In compliance with guidelines as set out by Department for Employment and Learning, the College may be able to make a partial contribution towards the cost of childcare. Criteria is as follows: You must: Meet the residency requirements in accordance with Education Regulations Be aged 18 years or over Be on a full/Part-time vocational course up to level 5 Not be receiving childcare support form any other source Have already applied and be eligible for Support Funds Supply your child(ren’s) birth certificate(s) Supply a copy of the childcare providers registration certificate Return attendance certificates on time to ensure continued support When submitting the Support Fund application form, the onus is on the student to ask for the Support funds childcare subform. DISCLAIMER The choice of childcare is the sole responsibility of the lone parent/person having parental responsibility. The College does not accept responsibility for any risks or accidents that might arise when a child is in the care of a Registered Childminder, Nursery or other carer. The College cannot accept responsibility for contractual arrangements with a Registered Childminder or other carer which result in payment being due for a period when the applicant is not participating in Further Education Provision. WITHDRAWING FROM COURSES Students must notify the Support Fund Office immediately if they withdraw from their course and pay back any support that they have received. PAYING BACK OVER PAYMENTS In case of over payments to students, the College will inform the student that an over payment has been made and ask for this to be paid back to the college as soon as possible. Students sign a declaration on the Support Fund application form to agree to this. This form must be presented with all the relevant documentation in person to a member of the Student Finance Team with in the Student Finance Office in Brunswick Street. You will be given a receipt as proof that you have submitted your application. You will need this receipt when querying the progression of your application. If you submit an application with insufficient documentation your form will not be assessed and you will be declined assistance, you will then need to resubmit an application with the relevant documentation. The onus is on you to read the guidance notes and assure that all the documentation is present on arrival in the Student Finance Office. PLEASE NOTE: ALL DOCUMENTS SUPPLIED WITH THIS FORM MUST BE ORIGINALS, WE WILL COPY ANY DOCUMENTS WE NEED TO RETAIN AND GIVE THE ORIGINALS BACK TO YOU WHEN YOU SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION IN PERSON. INCOME: Category A If you are over 25 years of age, we will require your own personal income details unless category (c) applies OR Category B If you are under 25 years of age then we will require income details from your parents / guardians, unless category (c) or (d) applies OR Category C Income details will be required from your spouse / partner if you have been living with your spouse / partner together for a period of 1 year prior to 1 July 2009, OR Category D If you are 25 or over at the start of this academic year OR you have been married before the start of this academic year OR you have been financially self-supporting for at least 3 years before the start of your course. OR you have care of a child or children on the first day of the academic year. OR *Have no parent living OR * Are irreconcilably estranged from your parents. Applicants wishing to be considered under this criteria must submit a full explanation of their circumstances and report from any relevant authority involved (e.g. Police, Social Services). If no report is available, a letter of explanation should be sent together with confirmation of the facts from an independent person of standing in the community. Please Note: It is YOUR responsibility to make sure that the support funds administrator receives all the relevant documentation. All documents will be checked off and where applicable photocopied before being returned to you there and then. Applications will not be accepted by internal or external mail systems. ALL PAYMENTS ARE DISCRETIONARY AND DEPENDENT ON THE AVAILABILITY OF SUPPORT FUNDS. CLOSING DATES FOR APPLICATION The Support Fund Panel will meet on a monthly basis but this may change due to term breaks and holidays. Students will be informed in writing 6 to 8 weeks from the date of the panel meeting. A final closing date will be set for the 3rd term unless the budget has been exhausted earlier in the year. If it appears that the budget will be exhausted at an early stage, the College will ensure that ample notice is given to students to enable them to apply. Additional Criteria may have to be introduced and the level of awards given on the other panels may have to be reduced to meet the demand. Aggressive or threatening behaviour towards the Student Finance Staff will not be tolerated by the College and may result in your application being terminated. SUPPORT FUND EVIDENCE REQUIRED LIST OF EVIDENCE ALL STUDENTS HAVE TO SUPPLY (if applicable): NEED TO PROOF EVIDENCE REQUIRED Student Enrolment BMC Student ID or BMC Enrolment Receipt Identity and Age Passport, Driving License or Birth Cert and Utility Bill Residency (if necessary) Official Documents showing residence (3 years in NI) Address Bank Statement, Driving License, Letter from SSA etc. Bank Details Bank Statement, Log or Cheque book (some Bank Cards) Exhausted Other Sources (FE) Final letter from (WELB) FE Award clearly showing Award Exhausted Other Sources (HE) Final Financial Assessment form Student Finance NI Exhausted Other Sources (Not assisted) Letter from funding body clearly showing reason for refusal Student Income P60 or last 3 payslips or letter from SSA (Others may apply) Travel Expenses Bus, Train Tickets Books and Equipment Purchased Receipts of any books or equipment / materials purchased Other Expenses As may vary please discuss with a Student Finance Officer Dependant Student Students aged under 25 years of age prior to the first day of the current academic year are deemed as dependant students and may have to supply the evidence listed in the below table depending on their circumstances unless they can satisfy one of the criteria for Independent status. ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE REQUIRED BY DEPENDANT STUDENTS: NEED TO PROOF EVIDENCE REQUIRED Parental Information/Income P60 or last 3 payslips or letter from SSA (Others may apply) Parents Marital Status (Divorce/Separate Court Order, Lone parent WTC, Partners Death Certificate etc) (Widowed) Accommodation (if living away from home) Letter from Landlord (clearly showing Rent payable) Mortgage (if living away from home) Mortgage Statement Independent Student – Students that fit one of the following criteria will be deemed as an Independent Student and may have to supply the evidence listed in the below table depending on their circumstances. Students aged 25 or over prior to the first day of the current academic year. Student who have been married prior to the first day of the academic year. Students who have financially self-supporting in full-time employment for 3 years prior to the start of the current academic year. Students that have care of a child or children prior to the first day of the current academic year. Students that have no living parents. Students that are irreconcilably estranged from their parents. Applicants wishing to be considered under this criteria must submit a full explanation of their circumstances and report from any relevant authority involved (e.g. Police, Social Services). If no report is available, a letter of explanation should be sent together with confirmation of the facts from an independent person of standing in the community. ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE REQUIRED BY INDEPENDANT STUDENTS: NEED TO PROOF EVIDENCE REQUIRED Independence (under 25 years of age) As may vary please discuss with a Student Finance Officer Spouse/Partners Information/Income P60 or last 3 payslips or letter from SSA (Others may apply) Marital Status (Divorce/Separated etc) Court Order, Lone parent WTC, Partners Death Certificate (Widowed) Mortgage (if living away from home) Mortgage Statement Accommodation (if living away from home) Letter from Landlord (clearly showing Rent payable) ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE REQUIRED BY STUDENTS APPLYING FOR CHILDCARE: NEED TO PROOF EVIDENCE REQUIRED Child/s Details Child/s Birth Certificate Other Sources Working Tax Credits (breakdown) Registered Childminder Childminders Registration Certificate Payments made or to make Official Invoices/Receipts If you submit an application with insufficient documentation your form will not be assessed and you will be declined assistance, you will then need to resubmit an application with the relevant documentation. The onus is on you to read the guidance notes and assure that all the documentation is present on arrival in the Student Finance Office. PLEASE NOTE: Due to the vast range of circumstances students may be in, it is impossible to anticipate exactly what evidence each student will have to provide. We have tried to cover all eventualities but are aware that there may be other forms of evidence than listed above. If you have any queries regarding which evidence may be accepted please contact a Student Finance Officer.
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