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SAAS spending on grant funding from 2003-04

November 7, 2013

This post provides summaries in the form of graphs for SAAS spending and claimant numbers for various forms of grant, based on the most recent statistical bulletin, which provides figures from 2003-04 to 2012-13.  Spending data has been converted from the cash figures published to current (ie 2013-14) prices.

The table also projects SAAS grant spending forward to 2013-14, on the best currently available data. The 2013-14 figures are derived from data supplied separately to the Scottish Parliament by the Scottish Government last year.  This is not an ideal data set to use, but is the only official estimate provided to date for spending in the current year.

Grant Spending

This graph – Award payments and total amount paid by SAAS – shows how spending on non-repayable forms of student support has changed over the years.

The graph shows significant ups and downs over the period, and  the downward trend from 2011-12 onwards.

The notes to the full SAAS statistical document provide more detail on what was changing within the system over the period.  However, in brief, the larger changes accounting for rises and falls in the total line and its component parts are:

  • From 2004-05, Dependents Grant could no longer be claimed for children and the School Meals Grant (included here in “Other”) was abolished, with the introduction of Child Tax Credit.
  • In 2005-06 the income threshold for YSB was raised, and the rate went up faster than inflation:  as a result,  more money could be claimed by more people
  • Independent Students Grant was introduced in 2010-11, creating a significant new element of grant spending.  It was initially worth £17m at current prices
  • In 2010-11, around £3.5m of support to postgraduates was removed from the system – I have not yet found any background to this.  (The Scottish Government recently announced additional loans for postgraduates, from 2014-15.)
  • Travel grants  were removed in 2011-12. The budgeted reduction in the grant line was around £14m, although in practice they were worth just over £21m at current prices in their final year.  Around half the funds saved appear to have been used to obtain more loan for those at lower incomes.  None of the remaining grant seems to have been re-applied as grant elsewhere in the system. From 2011-12 onwards, Disabled Student Allowance travel expenses were absorbed into the DSA totals, and allied health professions and study abroad travel expenses into ad hoc payments (shown here within “Other”)
  • Childcare grants were transferred from SAAS to institutions in 2011-12, removing the Lone Parents Childcare Grant, worth £1.5m in its final year, from these figures.
  • The freezing of YSB rates from 2010-11 probably almost certainly accounts for much of the fall in real terms spending on that grant over the period immediately prior to 2013-14.
  • The separate bursaries for students outside Scotland and certain “allied health professions” were incorporated into the YSB and ISB from 2013-14. all These 2 grant streams together accounted for around £5m in 2012-13. It is not possible to estimate how much will be spent on students previously in these groups, as of 2013-14. NB The table assumes all of the £2.7m spent on health bursaries will be absorbed into YSB/ISB, but that may not be right.
  • The rates and thresholds for YSB and ISB were significantly reduced from 2013-14, accounting for the large fall in estimated YSB spending, in particular.

Numbers claiming

SAAS awards are demand led.  Year on year changes can therefore be partly explained by changes in numbers of applicants and their profile.

This table – Numbers of students receiving awards from SAAS – provides an overview of how numbers claiming each grant changed over the period.

Note that these are claimants for each form of grant – some students will have been able to claim more than one grant and will have done so.

The large number affected by the removal of travel grants stands out.

The relatively stable number claiming YSB up to 2012-13, after the rule change took effect in 2005-06, shows clearly.  From that year up to 2012-13 claimants undulated between 33,000 and 35,000 a year.

Also noticeable is the large rise assumed in 2013-14 figure  supplied by the Scottish Government to the Scottish Parliament for expected YSB claimants. This  represents a 20 to 30% increase compared to the figures for the previous 7 years.  The estimate given was 41,935, compared to  actual YSB claimants in 2012-13 of 33,140.  Up to 3,000 students will be transferring to YSB  from health department and outside Scotland grants schemes.   However, other reasons for the expected rapid growth in YSB claimants are not immediately  clear, from changes either to the scheme or the wider environment.  The estimated figures for applicants (and therefore probably also spending) therefore need a caveat that they appear to be on the high side. The actual figures will not be available until next year.

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