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Please find below a list of frequently asked questions regarding Access to Learning advice.
If you still cannot find the information you require please contact us by either completing the contact form below or by using the information to the right.

What is the Hardship Fund?

The Access to Learning Fund (ALF) is money provided by the Government to help students facing financial hardship. It can provide non-repayable awards to students who are having money troubles or have an unexpected emergency to deal with.

The fund is discretionary and the University receives a fixed amount each year; so whether or not you get an award depends on your individual circumstances and on the availability of funds. The Fund is not intended to be used to fund your lifestyle choices.

Am I eligible to apply to the Fund?

As the fund has a limited amount of money we aren't able to help every applicant. Some students are given priority; such as students with children and final year students. However you can still apply even if you are not a priority student.

All applicants must have taken out their full student loan entitlement, and have received your first instalment of this before applying to the fund.

How can I apply for the Fund?

You will have to apply by completing the enclosed application form, or by collecting an application form from the Student Centre.  If you need an application pack sending by post, please call us on 01204-903484, or e-mail your request to hardship@bolton.ac.uk.

What documents must I supply with my application?

You MUST supply the following as a minimum:

  • Student finance notification letter
  • Student loan payment schedule
    (both can be downloaded and printed off from your Student Finance Account)
  • Copies of bank statements for ALL bank accounts in your name for the previous three months. 
    (single transaction items of £100 or more need to be explained)
  • Bank Mini-statement(s) which confirms the current balance of your account(s)
  • Evidence of rent or mortgage 

You will also need to provide documents relevant to your particular circumstances, for example: 

  • Child benefit and Child tax Credits
  • Partner’s income (and bank and mini-statement(s)) as above.
  • Childcare costs
  • Field trip costs
  • Medical costs

ALL information supplied should be photocopies as we cannot return your evidence to you.

When should I apply to the Fund?

You can apply at any point in the academic year. However, the University has a limited amount of money and while every effort is made to ensure that it remains available throughout the year (September 2015 - May 2016), this cannot be guaranteed. You are encouraged to plan and review your budget early in your academic year so that, wherever possible, you can anticipate any difficulties and apply early. If you are a final year student you need to ensure that we receive your application form with all relevant documents at least four weeks before the end date of your course.

I have not received my Student Loan instalment, can I apply for help from the Access to Learning Fund?

No. You need to be in receipt of your first instalment of student loan prior to applying to the fund. However, you can apply for an Emergency Loan of up to £240, if you wish to do so, you should make an appointment direct with the Students’ Union Advice Co-ordinator or Student Funding Adviser in the Student Centre. Please note that you are required to repay the loan within a six week deadline. 

What is the earliest date I can apply to the Access to Learning Fund?

The fund opens at the start of each academic year. The exact date will be confirmed each year and advertised in the Student Centre and on the Hardship webpages. Students applying to the fund must have enrolled/re-enrolled as a student at the University of Bolton.

 

How will my application be assessed?

Your application is assessed following guidelines provided by NASMA and if successful, either a standard or non-standard award could be made. A non-standard award may be made where a student has an unexpected financial crisis or has unforeseen essential costs that cannot be met from other sources.

When we assess your application we will look at your income and expenditure over the course of the academic year.

What we will count as income:

  • HE Maintenance Grant (up to the first £1,832 is not included)
  • Special Support Grant (up to the first £1,832 is not included)
  • Student Loan for maintenance
  • Bolton Bursary (for continuing students only, the first £355 is not included)
  • Parents’ Learning Allowance
  • Childcare Grant
  • Adult Dependents Grant
  • NHS/Social Work Bursaries and Grants
  • Parental contributions
  • Means-tested benefits

What we will count as expenditure:

For the purposes of the fund, not everything you spend can be included as expenditure.  For instance, we do not include money spent on mobile phones, car costs (except for disabled students or students with dependants), holidays or furnishing your home.

We do include: 

  • Rent (with capped limits)
  • Council Tax (if you have to pay it)
  • Travel costs (with capped limits)
  • Childcare costs (with capped limits)

We also include a figure called ‘Composite Living Costs’.  This includes flat amounts for money spent on basic living costs, such as food, household bills (gas, electricity, water, TV Licence, etc.), clothes, and entertainment.  This figure is included in everyone’s assessment, regardless of what they actually spend on these items.  The Fund is not intended to support your lifestyle choices.

How long will it take to process my application?

All complete applications will be processed within a four week deadline. Incomplete applications are returned directly to the student.

How many times can I apply to the Fund during the year?

You only need to apply once a year as we assess your application over the academic year. If you are a single student we carry out your assessment over a 39 week period and if you are a student with dependant children or a disabled student we are required to do your assessment over a 43 week period.

If your financial circumstances change during the academic year and this is reflected in your income or expenditure levels, you can complete a further application form stating that this is a re-assessment.

How much will I receive from the Fund?

Unfortunately we are not able to tell you how much you will receive until we have carried out an income and expenditure assessment based on the details you provide on your application form.  We are required to use set criteria when assessing applications to the Fund in order to be consistent and treat all applications fairly.  Not all students will receive an award from the Fund.

Will I have to repay the award?

No. The money you are awarded is given to you as a grant and you are not required to repay the award. You should note that if you apply to the fund and have not repaid your Emergency Loan we will deduct the loan amount from your award in the first instance.

When will I receive the award and how will this be paid to me?

There are three payment dates during the year, and all payments are paid by BACS transfer - you should complete a bank nomination form when you apply to the Fund, this will ensure that you get paid direct into your designated bank account. 

Why have I not got the same amount as last year when my circumstances have not changed?

In 2013/14 the fund was called the Access to Learning Fund (ALF) and a dedicated amount of money was provided to the University of Bolton.  In 2014/15 this was abolished by the government.  We are required to use capped figures for income and expenditure and these will change on a yearly basis which will affect your assessment. We will send all students a breakdown of award with their award letter and this will indicate how we assessed your application.

Can I get help with my Tuition fees from the fund?

All students should apply direct to Student Finance England for help with their Tuition Fees.  We are not able to include fees in the assessment calculation or help towards full-time tuition fees. 

I have a number of debts that have not been taking into account on the assessment calculation, why?

Many students find it difficult to manage on the statutory support they receive and often incur debts as a result, but we cannot include all debts. What we can include depends if your debt is classed as a Priority or Non-Priority. Only Priority Debts will be considered under the fund.

Priority Debts are debts which, if left unpaid, could result in the loss of your home, imprisonment, cutting off gas or electricity. Priority debts are:

  • Secured loans
  • Rent arrears
  • Council tax
  • Fines
  • Gas and Electricity Charges
  • Tax and VAT
  • NI Contributions

Priority debts will only be included in your assessment if you have agreed a repayment plan and have started to make regular repayments – you will need to provide written confirmation of this.  A priority debt will only be considered for an award once during your studies at the University. If you have previously had support for a priority debt we will not be able to give consideration to offering this support again due to constraints on the fund allocation.

Non-Priority Debts that will not result in the loss of your home, liberty or essential

services include:

  • Credit cards
  • Debts to family
  • Personal loans
  • Mobile phones

These cannot be included in your assessment.  Please note that this list is not definitive. 

Can I apply each year that I am a student?

Yes, but please bear in mind that the outcome of your application may not be the same year on year.  

What do I do if I don’t understand how my award has been calculated or I am not happy with the amount of award?

If you do not understand the breakdown of award that you have been sent, you can make an appointment with a member of staff in Student Services on Tel. 01204 903484. The staff member will explain to you how we calculated your assessment.   You can appeal against the decision only on the basis that we have calculated your award incorrectly or that you are providing further information to support your application. Unless you have a non-standard award that we can take into account when assessing your application we are not able to increase the shortfall or reduce the surplus on your assessment calculation. 

Can I speak to someone about Budgeting or benefit entitlements at the University?

Yes.  You should contact the Student Centre who can arrange a budgeting session with an adviser. You can also speak to the Students’ Union Advice Unit Co-ordinator about your benefit entitlements or debt issues.

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