A single mother wants to retrain but is worried that she can’t afford to do it. Can you keep your family comfortable and chase your dreams at the same time? Do you have any advice to share in this week’s A Problem Shared?
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I’m thinking of going to college to retrain as a social worker. I haven’t looked into it too much as I don’t want to get my hopes up that I’m going to make some great changes to my life if I wouldn’t be able to do this financially.
I’m 34 and have two children aged 13 and 15 and have worked a desk job at the local council for years. I’m just totally stuck in a rut and want to make some drastic changes to my life. I’m really interested in becoming a social worker but don’t want to put my family in financial difficulties just because I’m fed up with things.
I am not with the children’s father and am raising them up alone. This is also another reason I want to better myself, I want to be a good role model to them and show that you can do what you want to do. But can I really afford to become a student now?
Our FamilyPoint Advice
Thanks for getting in touch with us here at FamilyPoint.
It’s great that you’re thinking about making some career changes. Social work can be a very rewarding career option and your reasons for wanting to make this change really are admirable. Your worries about finances are understandable, especially when you have parental responsibilities.
It’s never too late
It’s never too late to make a career change and retrain, there are lots of mature students in universities nowadays. However, you are right and there are financial implications to studying. In reality not only is there the cost of the course to consider but also, if you’re studying full-time, it may be difficult for you to stay in work. Covering living costs could also be a worry. Student Finance Wales highlight two funding possibilities:
- Tuition fee loans and Maintenance loans (these are usually repayable)
- Grants and bursaries (usually don’t need to be paid back)
There is a breakdown of potential costs on the Student Finance Wales website which is definitely worth a look.
Don’t be scared of looking into it
I know you mention not wanting to look into things because you don’t want to get your hopes up, but you will need a better idea of things. The effect it will have on your finances and the funding available will vary depending on the course. For example, funding for a full-time postgraduate course may be different to funding for a part-time undergraduate course.
A good starting point is to explore the social work courses that are available at your local colleges. Looking locally will help keep costs down as you won’t have to travel far.
There are so many different courses and funding opportunities available so it would be a good idea to go to your local careers office and speak to a careers adviser. They can give you more information and advise you on the courses available. They may not be able to answer whether you definitely eligible for funding, but they will have an idea of what funding is available for specific courses. There are lots of options for funding your studies. The Careers Wales website provides a useful guide on this.
As well as the usual student finance options, there is also a specified amount of Social Work Bursary funding available throughout Wales. When you have a better idea of what course you want to study, the good news is that you’re likely to be eligible for a Social Care Wales bursary. The only conditions that you must meet are that you study in Wales, are not funded by your employer and want to study a course approved by this organisation. But there are only 224 funding places available spread across the institutions offering social work courses across Wales. Check out the Social Care Wales website for details on how to apply.
As a single parent, there are more bursaries that may be open to you. The Parents Learning Allowance helps with course-related costs if you have dependent children. The Childcare Grant can cover up to 85% of your childcare if you have children in registered or approved childcare. More details can be found on the Student Finance Wales website. They also have a Student Finance helpline if you have further questions on 0300 200 4050.
Be honest with your children
There are lots of funding routes for the type of course you want to study. These could stop you from getting into financial difficulties. But even with the help of funding, you may still face a cut in your monthly income. This could impact the whole family.
You could look through your monthly budget beforehand to see what impact a cut might have, have a think about where you could start making savings.
If you’re worried about the effect this may have on your children, then be honest with them. Tell them about your plans, and what impact this might have on you as a family while you’re studying. Being honest with them will help them to understand when the budget gets tighter. It will also show them how determined their mother is, that you want to achieve and change your situation despite the difficulties. These are positive skills that will help them to develop.
We hope these tips have helped you today in your brave and admirable decision to make this big career change. We wish you all the best for the future.
The FamilyPoint Team.
If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.
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