Guidance

16 to 18 Residential Bursary Fund guide: 2018 to 2019 academic year

This guide provides information for institutions with 16 to 18 Residential Bursary Fund allocations in the 2018 to 2019 academic year.

Who this guide is for

This guide is for institutions with 16 to 18 Residential Bursary Fund (RBF) allocations in the 2018 to 2019 academic year. Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) have produced it.

This guide is non-statutory. However, ESFA expects institutions to use it as the basis of their RBF policies and to be able to show they comply with it at any audit.

Key points

RBF is intended to support students who are attending the institution to take part in a designated specialism – mostly, but not exclusively, this is land-based provision. ESFA expects that the majority of the students receiving RBF will be studying in the designated specialist subject area.

Any student to whom the institution awards RBF whilst participating in general FE provision that is widely available, for example, A levels or vocational qualifications, should be a genuine exception based on individual student circumstances.

RBF is designed to provide a contribution to an eligible student’s accommodation costs and ESFA expects the majority of an institution’s RBF allocation to be used for this purpose. RBF can be used to help with travel costs between the student’s term time lodgings (if they are not on campus) and the institution where appropriate. RBF cannot be used for travel costs for non-residential students, in other words, for home to institution travel.

RBF is part of the wider suite of student financial support funding provided by ESFA. This includes other funding such as the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund and free meals in further education. Like those schemes, RBF helps individual students overcome financial barriers to participation. If a student leaves their study programme part way through the year, the institution must stop RBF (or any other student financial support funding) payments.

From the 2018 to 2019 academic year, RBF allocations will be paid to institutions in 2 parts: two thirds in August and one third in April. This is the same payment schedule as the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund.

Residential Bursary Fund: a summary

RBF provides financial help towards the costs of accommodation for students attending one of the designated institutions delivering specialist provision. Specialist provision is not available locally and/or requires the student to attend at unsociable hours on a regular basis and consequently the student needs to live away from home.

RBF enables young people to gain a substantial qualification in a specialist subject that they would not be able to get at a non-specialist institution. RBF should not be used to enable a student to participate in additional activity, for example, to take part in a specific sport, whilst they are participating in general FE provision that is widely available.

RBF provides a contribution towards residential costs. Institutions should target the funding at students they assess face the most significant financial barriers to participation. RBF is not intended to provide support to all students on residentially delivered provision, or to necessarily cover the full costs for each student.

RBF can be used for accommodation in private lodgings or accommodation that is owned or managed by the institution.

Where institutions use RBF for travel costs for residential students living off campus (between term time lodgings and the institution), the amount they spend must not exceed 15% of their total RBF allocation. To make sure RBF maintains its primary focus on residential support, spend on travel is also capped at £25,000. This means that where 15% of the institution’s allocation would be greater than £25,000, £25,000 is the maximum the institution can spend on travel costs.

Institutions can use up to 5% of their allocation for administrative costs.

Eligibility criteria

Age

To be eligible to receive RBF in the 2018 to 2019 academic year, students must be aged 16 or over but under 19 on 31 August 2018.

Students aged 19 or over are only eligible for RBF if they are continuing on a study programme they began aged 16 to 18 (‘19+ continuers’) or have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Residency

Students must meet the residency criteria in ESFA funding regulations for post-16 provision in the 2018 to 2019 academic year. This document also specifies the evidence institutions must see and retain for audit to confirm eligibility.

Household income

Individual institutions have discretion to set their own RBF policies. Institutions must, however, ensure RBF support is targeted at those students facing the most significant financial barriers to participation. They should assess the student’s actual need for help with residential costs before awarding RBF support.

Institutions should take account of the young person’s household income when deciding how much RBF to award. Household income must be verified by evidence, for example, an award notice showing receipt of benefits, a P60, Tax Credit Award Notice, evidence of self-employment income etc.

Eligible education provision

RBF is designed to enable students to gain a substantial qualification in a specialist subject area.

ESFA expects the majority of students awarded RBF to be enrolled in a specialist subject area (this is mostly, but not exclusively, land-based provision).

Any use of RBF to support students enrolled in general FE provision that is widely available must be by exception. RBF should not be awarded simply to enable a student to participate in additional activity, for example, to take part in a specific sport; or to enable a student to attend a particular institution when the qualification they are studying is widely available.

Young people on any paid education, training or apprenticeship programmes are not eligible for RBF support.

Assessment of RBF

Institutions have discretion to decide which students receive RBF and how much RBF they are awarded. They should manage the number and size of RBF awards they make to keep within their budget.

Institutions should publish a statement setting out their RBF policy to help students understand the criteria against which they will be assessed. The statement should be published early enough for students to be able to use the information when deciding which post-16 institution to attend. The institution’s policy must be clear and available to students and to ESFA.

Institutions should take account of equalities legislation in their RBF policies. This means they must not discriminate against their students based on their protected characteristics. Institutions are also subject to the public sector equality duty in section 149 (1) of the Equality Act 2010.

Institutions’ decision on whether a student is eligible for RBF should be based on their household income and their actual need for help.

Students can receive benefits and/or other forms of financial support at the same time as RBF.

Where students’ accommodation is off campus, institutions may use RBF to help with the cost of travel from term time lodgings to site (up to a maximum of 15% of their allocation, capped at £25,000). The use of RBF for travel costs does not replace the statutory duty on local authorities to set out, in an annually published transport statement, the arrangements they will make to facilitate the participation in education or training of young people of sixth form age.

Paying RBF

RBF payments for accommodation must be made directly to the student’s landlord. The landlord may be the institution itself if they provide accommodation directly or a private landlord. No payments should be made directly to the student as these payments would be subject to the Social Security Amendment (Students and Income related Benefits Regulations 2000).

What RBF cannot be used for

Institutions should not use RBF for any purpose designed to give them a competitive advantage over other institutions. RBF should not be used for:

  • fees for access to college facilities
  • block subsidy of transport
  • costs that are in the scope of the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund
  • childcare costs that are in the scope of the Care to Learn scheme

RBF should not be awarded simply because a student is enrolled in residentially delivered provision.

RBF should not be awarded to students studying programmes that are widely available unless the individual student has genuinely exceptional circumstances.

RBF should not be used simply to enable students to access additional activity, for example, to participate in a specific sport.

RBF should not be used to enable a student to attend a particular institution in cases where the provision they are studying is widely available.

Responding to in year changes

Institutions may wish to keep a contingency fund to respond to needs that come up later in the academic year, for example, a change in a student’s circumstances, rather than allocating all funds at the start of the year.

Where students leave part way through the year, their RBF payments should stop in exactly the same way as other student financial support payment, for example, from the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund, stop.

Where students change study programme part way through the academic year, for example, they enrolled on a specialist programme but swap to a general FE programme, institutions should consider the specific circumstances when deciding whether RBF should continue. They should not automatically continue with RBF payments without review.

Funding and allocations

RBF allocations for the 2018 to 2019 academic year have been generated using the methodology below:

  • for institutions that spent their 2016 to 2017 allocation in full, or who spent within £15,000 of their allocation, 5% has been added to their 2017 to 2018 allocated amount to generate the allocation

  • for institutions that underspent against their 2016 to 2017 allocation, their allocation is their 2016 to 2017 actual spend

  • for institutions who received 5% growth in their 2017 to 2018 allocation but who underspent in 2016 to 2017, their allocation is the same as their 2017 to 2018 allocation

The allocations methodology disregards any spend by institutions that is outside policy guidelines (inappropriate use of RBF for travel for non-resident students, for example). In the future, ESFA may also disregard spend by institutions where RBF is being used to support students on non-specialist provision.

Institutions may use up to 5% of their RBF allocation to cover administrative costs. The 5% should be taken from the allocation total; it is not an additional 5% on top of the total allocation. Institutions should use the funding allocated to them for RBF solely to support eligible students with residential costs in line with RBF policy.

Where institutions identify that they will be unable to spend the majority of their RBF allocation, they should notify ESFA as soon as possible to arrange to repay the excess via our online enquiry form.

ESFA will aim to distribute any returned funds to other RBF institutions that can make use of further funding.

Institutions are not permitted to transfer any funds from RBF to other student support schemes provided by ESFA.

RBF funding will be reconciled by ESFA at the end of the academic year. Funds cannot be carried forward to future years.

RBF allocations will be paid to institutions in 2 parts: two thirds in August and one third in April. This is an adjustment to the previous RBF payment schedule and brings the schedule into line with the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund and free meals in further education.

Institutions may top up RBF from their own sources if they choose to do so.

Individualised Learner Record and management information requirements

ESFA reminds institutions of the importance of completing the Individualised Learner Record (ILR) to indicate the numbers of students getting residential support from RBF. ESFA will use this information to develop future allocations.

ESFA will also issue institutions with a short data request to collect information on RBF expenditure at the end of the academic year.

The data return will include the following:

  • students supported with RBF for accommodation costs; the number living on site/off site and the total amount spent on accommodation
  • students receiving RBF to help with transport costs whilst living in lodgings off campus and the total amount spent on transport
  • amount spent on administrative costs
  • RBF supported students’ study programme core aims, as reported in the ILR

The return will include space for institutions to explain the reasons for any underspend or overspend and/or to add any additional information they wish to provide to ESFA.

ESFA will reconcile RBF funds once data from the annual data return has been analysed. We will write to institutions to confirm the amount of reconciliation, the reason for it (if applicable) and the date the action will be taken.

Where the data return indicates institutions are routinely awarding RBF to students enrolled in mainstream FE rather than specialist provision, ESFA may review whether the institution’s access to RBF remains appropriate and/or may recover funds.

Audit and assurance

RBF is subject to normal assurance arrangements for 16 to 19 education and training. Institutions should ensure they have appropriate processes in place to record RBF applications and awards (including the number, value, purpose, whether awarded or not, and a brief justification for the decision).

Institutions must ensure they can evidence their application process, how the student was assessed, how they made the decision to award the specific amount of RBF and the funds that they have issued for the student’s costs. Auditors will be looking for evidence that institutions have applied their RBF eligibility criteria correctly and used a consistent application and assessment process for all students.

Institutions should retain copies of any documents the student has signed to give formal agreement to their conditions for payment.

Hard or scanned copies of documentation should be retained for 6 years (records can be kept electronically).

Institutions should note that, following an audit, funding might be recovered where RBF payments are found not to have been made in accordance with this guide.

ESFA cannot guarantee to reimburse any overspends by institutions as this is dependent on funds becoming available for redistribution. Institutions are therefore advised not to overspend in the expectation that there will be a reallocation of funds later in the year. ESFA will not reimburse any overspend that is not within the scheme rules as set out in this guide and may take action to recover any RBF funds spent outside the scheme rules.

Institutions’ responsibilities in managing complaints or appeals

Any student or parent who is unhappy with how an institution has handled their application for RBF should follow the institution’s own complaints procedure.

Institutions should explain to students how they can complain or appeal about any decision relating to RBF support and/or the way in which their application for RBF support was handled.

ESFA does not have a role in the administration of RBF because this is the responsibility of individual institutions. As such, ESFA does not usually get involved with complaints. However, ESFA may get involved if there is an allegation that the RBF eligibility criteria or any content within this guide is being seriously disregarded.

Further information

Institutions should direct any queries about the allocation and administration of RBF to ESFA via our online enquiry form.

Published 12 March 2018