MSPs to debate social work petition on March 22

SWU Campaign Fund | PE1993: Reform the financial support for social work students on work placements

Scottish Parliamentarians will debate a petition calling for bursaries for social work students on 22 March 2023.

The debate can be watched online from 9:30am at: – it will be the seventh item considered by the committee.

Over 2,000 people signed the petition which in itself came after more than 300 students wrote to officials and ministers in the Scottish Government.

The students are calling for the Scottish Government to make funding available to provide bursaries to all third and fourth year undergraduate social work students in Scotland as well as reform of post-graduate bursary funding. This would ensure equality with other students who work in the public sector in front-line roles during their studies.

Currently, the total for nursing, midwifery and paramedic bursaries is a non-repayable £37,500, but for social work students the basic support available is between £20,400 and £32,400, mostly in the form of a repayable loan and depending on household income.

Despite meeting with Ministers, a further submission to the Petitions Committee highlighted the petitioners’ ongoing concerns. 

In response, Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Higher Education appeared to concede that more must be done, telling the Press Association that:

“The Scottish Government understands the many impacts that the current cost-of-living crisis is having on students and we have been in dialogue with universities on this issue… we appreciate that this must be kept under review and are working closely with relevant universities and the wider Social Work Education Partnership (SWEP) to explore options for funding practice learning.”

One of the lead petitioners, Lucy Challoner, commented:

“We hope MSPs listen to the evidence we have provided and now urge the Scottish Government to act to provide social work student bursaries in time for the start of the 2023/24 academic year.”

The campaign is backed by the Social Workers Union (SWU) and Scottish Association of Social Workers (SASW).

Full correspondence has been published online: