There will undoubtedly be many challenges ahead for your son or daughter when it comes to continuing with further or higher education following a cancer diagnosis. However, there are a number of government benefits available to help.
Finding the right financial support
For many people, it's important to find comfort in normality. So where possible, continuing with a university course or college studies is seen as the best option.
However, with the added costs of travelling for treatment or paying for extra clothes and general outgoings, your family may need to apply for some financial support to help you get by.
Bursaries, scholarships and awards
Check with the university to see if your child qualify for bursaries, scholarships or awards.
Financial grants can help cover the costs of things like books and laptops. Money will be paid directly to the student, with no need to pay any of it back.
Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
University and college can be expensive enough, but with added costs such as specialist equipment, readers, note-takers or extra travel costs, it all adds up.
DSAs are grants (which don't have to be paid back) that could help you cover extra costs if you have an ongoing health condition, disability (cancer is classed as this), mental-health condition or learning difficulty.
The amount you get will depend on the student's individual needs, rather than the family's household income and the intensity of a course. They can also be in addition to any help received with travel costs.
16 to 19 bursary
Students in full-time training or education who are facing genuine financial hardship may be able to apply for a bursary of £1,200 a year. This benefit won't be available if your child is studying at university.
If students are ill or have an authorised absence, the school, college or training provider will let them know whether it will affect your payments.
This is available in England only. Students in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland may be eligible for an Education Maintenance Allowance.
Parents' Learning Allowance
The Parents' Learning Allowance could offer a student who is a parent between £50 and £1,573 for 2016/17 depending on their household income. These could be put towards costs such as travel, books or course material.
Discretionary Learner Support (DLS)
Students aged 19 or over, on a further education course and facing financial hardship (for example, if they can't afford to pay for their accommodation, can't pay bills, buy food or meet other essential costs), can apply for DLS to help pay for a range of expenses, including:
- accommodation and travel
- course materials and equipment
- childcare, for students aged 20 or over (if they're 19 they will need to apply for Care to Learn instead)
- other hardship needs
The funding may be paid as a loan, a direct payment (that won't need to be paid back) or be paid to someone else, for example a landlord.
Extra help for students
From 1 September 2016 students will no longer be able to apply for a Maintenance Grant. These have now beeen replaced with loans, meaning that full-time students can apply for:
- Tuition Fee Loan
- Maintenance Loan
- extra help from universities or colleges if you're on a low income, for example a bursary, grant or scholarship.
Loans will need to be paid back when a graduate earns more than £21,000 a year. Part-time and EU students are unable to apply for a Maintenance Loan. Visit www.gov.uk for more information.
EMA has now closed to new applicants in England, but the scheme is still available for students living in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales who can get up to £30 a week (paid fortnightly) to help with the cost of learning.
Changes in circumstances
Students (or parents with their permission) will need to keep in touch with the office or department which pays out any benefits to keep them up-to-date with any changes.
Some benefits are only payable while a student remains in education. This means that students may be liable to pay some of it back if they don't keep them informed.
For more information on claiming benefits contact the Disability Rights UK student helpline on 0800 328 5050.
Updated July 2016, next review due 2017.