Guidance for all institutions with Residential Support Scheme (RSS) funding allocations in the 2015 to 2016 academic year.
This guide provides information to institutions with Residential Support Scheme (RSS) funding allocations in the 2015 to 2016 academic year.
Institutions must ensure RSS expenditure is appropriate and in line with the scheme rules set out in this guide. RSS may only be used to support accommodation cost for residential students who cannot gain their substantial qualification within daily travelling distance of their home address.
Information for the 2015 to 2016 academic year
In the 2015 to 2016 academic year, the RSS delivery model has changed from a nationally managed applications model to an allocations based model. The cost of administering RSS as a nationally managed applications model was disproportionate to the number of students who receive support from the scheme. The change to the delivery model will reduce the administrative costs, enabling the money saved to be used to support students.
The nationally administered model also required institutions to verify local availability of provision with each student’s home local authority. This process was cumbersome and resulted in inconsistent decisions being taken about which students are and are not eligible for RSS. In the 2015 to 2016 academic year, local availability of provision will instead be verified directly with the Education Funding Agency (EFA). This will make the process simpler for institutions and will make eligibility decisions more consistent.
There is no change to RSS policy in the 2015 to 2016 academic year (please see the Residency section for further clarification of the residency criteria). The scheme will continue to provide financial help with residential costs for eligible students living away from home because the substantial Level 2 or Level 3 qualification that is part of their study programme is not available locally.
Historic funding eligibility problems have more often arisen where students are attending institutions outside of their normal recruitment area, particularly where this involves sub-contracted provision and in such cases additional safeguards are required from institutions for all such delivery. Given the known risks of irregularity in distance sub-contracting the EFA will not normally fund such 16 to 19 provision subcontracted by institutions and would not normally expect an institution to provide residential support to students enrolled on sub-contacting provision.
For further information regarding sub-contracting please see the EFA funding regulation paragraph 114 and 115 and Sub-contracting control regulations paragraphs 24,25 and 26, which set out the range of factors to be considered by institutions when deciding whether distance sub-contracting should be included in funding returns.
Institutions may use up to 5% of their RSS allocation to cover scheme administrative costs.
RSS policy and eligibility in the 2015 to 2016 academic year
RSS is intended to help support students aged 16 to 18 with the costs of living away from home to participate in a study programme where the substantial Level 2 or Level 3 qualification that is part of their study programme is not available locally to their home address.
RSS is available to students who intend to follow a full-time study programme including either a first full Level 2 or first full Level 3 substantial qualification/s. The programme must be directly 16 to 19 funded by the EFA.
In order to receive RSS support students must meet all the eligibility criteria set out in the student eligibility section below.
RSS can provide annual support of up to £3,458 (up to £4,079 in the London area) towards accommodation costs. If the student is assessed as eligible, the amount of award they receive is based on their actual accommodation costs up to the maximum award thresholds.
Young people on waged apprenticeship programmes, or any education or training where a wage is being drawn, are not eligible to apply for support.
To be eligible for RSS support in the 2015 to 2016 academic year, a student must meet the following criteria:
The student must be aged at least 16 and under 19 on 31 August 2015. Where a student turns 19 during the academic year, they can continue to be supported to the end of the academic year.
The student must satisfy the residency criteria set out in the 2015 to 2016 academic year EFA Funding Regulations.
Previously RSS required students to be ordinarily resident in England for the three years preceding the start of their study programme to be eligible for support. For 2015 to 2016 this criterion has been aligned with the residency requirements set out in the EFA Funding Regulations because of the change in delivery model and the wish to avoid institutions being required to assess students twice for residency (once for enrollment; once for RSS) using slightly different criteria.
Students must have a household income of £30,993 or less in the previous tax year. For the 2015 to 2016 academic year this is the 2014 to 2015 tax year. The household is defined as the student and the adults they live with who are mainly responsible for them.
The amount of RSS awarded to an individual must be based on an income-assessment which uses the following thresholds:
|Gross income level
|Up to £21, 000
|£21,001 - £25,704
|£25,705 - £30,993
|£30,994 and over
|Maximum RSS award - outside London
|Maximum RSS award - inside London *
These amounts are the maximum available for each income bracket and students should not receive the maximum if the actual cost of their accommodation is less than the figures shown. If the study programme lasts for less than one year then the amount of support should be awarded on a proportional basis.
London boroughs eligible for the London weighting
*The following London boroughs are eligible for the London weighting: Barking & Dagenham, Barnet, Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney & City of London, Hammersmith & Fulham, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Kingston-upon-Thames, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Newham, Redbridge, Richmond-upon-Thames, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth and Westminster.
Students must have been offered a place on a full-time study programme including either a first full Level 2 or first full Level 3 substantial qualification/s. The programme must be directly 16 to 19 funded by the EFA.
Institutions should refer to EFA Funding Regulations for the 2015 to 2016 academic year for further information.
The full Level 2 or full Level 3 substantial qualification should normally be the student’s first qualification at those levels. However, support for repeat qualifications may be offered in exceptional circumstances, for example, if a student:
- wishes to pursue a second Level 2 which is vocational where their first Level 2 was an academic qualification
- holds a Level 2 qualification but is required by the provider to undertake a further specific Level 2, in order to progress into the necessary Level 3 element of the programme
- is planning to enter higher education and a second level 3 qualification is specified as part of the entry requirement
It is the responsibility of institutions to assess where exceptions to the first full Level 2 or first full Level 3 substantial qualification criteria are appropriate. Any such support must be a genuine exception; the EFA does not expect such support to be given from RSS funding on a routine basis. Institutions should refer to the EFA if they have any doubts about particular cases.
Attending a study programme outside of reasonable daily travelling distance
The student must be living outside of reasonable daily travelling distance from the institution because the substantial Level 2 or Level 3 qualification that is part of their study programme is not available locally to their home address.
For the purposes of RSS eligibility, the key element of the study programme is the substantial qualification that is being funded by the EFA, not the study programme as a whole. If the substantial qualification is available within daily travelling distance the student is not eligible for RSS funding.
Reasonable daily travelling distance is defined as a daily return journey that takes two hours or less on public transport; or a distance of under 15 miles from the student’s home or term-time lodgings to the institution.
Students cannot receive RSS if they are in receipt of housing benefit.
Students must apply for RSS in each academic year they require Residential Support.
Students must have an unconditional offer of a place before they submit an application to the institution for RSS support. Applications may be made after the student has started their study programme but awards may only be backdated to the beginning of the term in which they made the application.
In the 2015 to 2016 academic year, students will apply to their institution for RSS. As this is the first year of this delivery model, the EFA has developed an application form, based on that previously used for the nationally managed RSS model, which institutions may wish to use. The EFA will confirm to institutions separately when the form is available.
Use of the EFA provided form is not mandatory and institutions may choose to develop their own form for RSS applications. They must ensure that any form they develop captures all the information required to assess the student against the eligibility requirements set out in this guide.
It is important for audit purposes that the student and responsible adult(s) sign and date the RSS application form.
Institutions should ensure that a copy of the student’s tenancy agreement has been included with the application form. This must have been agreed and signed and include the following information:
- the student’s name
- the student’s term time address
- the dates of the tenancy
- the cost of the rent
- the landlord’s name, address and signature (please note: the landlord cannot be related to the student)
The student’s term time lodgings must be no further than 15 miles from campus.
No RSS payments should be released until all of the required information/evidence has been supplied and the application has been fully assessed, including confirmation from the EFA that the student meets the criterion for local availability of provision (see below).
Institutions must ensure that payments are made directly to eligible students’ landlords for their rental costs. Proof of payment should be retained for audit purposes. Payments must not be made to students.
As an exception, in a scenario where a student has already paid some of their rent, prior to their RSS application being approved, institutions may refund their costs (as long as the rental period they have paid for is within the agreed period of the RSS award – as outlined above. Proof of payment must be retained.
Verification of local availability of provision
Verifying local availability of provision with each student’s home local authority has been problematic and, to rectify this, from the 2015 to 2016 academic year, institutions will now verify this directly with the EFA. This will make the process simpler for institutions as they will just need to deal with a single point of contact and will make decisions on local availability of provision more consistent.
Institutions may choose to verify local availability of provision with the EFA before they have assessed students’ application against the other eligibility criteria or afterwards. Institutions may prefer to send one list of all students seeking RSS funding for verification; however, requests to verify one individual may also be sent.
A short form will be developed for institutions to use. The form requires institutions to provide:
- each student’s name, home postcode, Unique Learner Number and Individualised Learner Record number
- the institution’s name, delivery location postcode and UPIN
- the qualification reference number and qualification title that the substantial Level 2 or Level 3 qualification the student is following as part of their study programme
The form will confirm the email address to which it should be sent.
The EFA will confirm to institutions separately when the form is available.
On receipt of the form, the EFA will assess whether the substantial Level 2 or 3 qualification each student is enrolled on is available within daily travelling distance of their home address. Please see student eligibility criterion. It is the availability of the substantial EFA funded qualification - not the study programme as a whole - that will determine whether the student meets the scheme criteria. Confirmation of eligibility or a rejection will be sent to the institution within 7 working days.
Institutions must retain a copy of the EFA’s response as part of their auditable records.
The local availability of provision for each student applying for RSS support must be verified with the EFA before eligibility for RSS is confirmed and any payments are made.
Once the EFA have verified the qualification is not available locally, RSS funding should only be released to the student to support them whilst they are studying the verified qualification. If the student transfers or fails to attend the agreed provision RSS funding should be withdrawn immediately. This action should be documented and included in the October MI return. Any unspent RSS funds may be recovered
Where the EFA rejects an application because the provision can be undertaken within daily travelling distance, the institution must reject the student’s application. No RSS payments can be made to any students who have not been confirmed as eligible by the EFA.
RSS allocations will be paid to institutions in three instalments: 50% in August 2015, 25% in December 2015 and 25% in March 2016.
In generating allocations we have used whichever is the highest value of each institution’s RSS awards in the 2012 to 2013, 2013 to 2014 and 2014 to 2015 academic years, ie the methodology takes account of the number of students receiving RSS support and the amount of award each one has been assessed as eligible to receive. Only institutions with RSS supported students in the 2014 to 2015 academic year have been given a funding allocation.
As part of the allocations methodology we matched data from RSS application forms against the data institutions entered in the individual learner record [ILR] for those students. In some instances the data match identified students whose core aim, ie the substantial qualification they are enrolled on, on the ILR was different to that stated on the RSS application form. Where the ILR data indicated the core aim is widely available, in other words it did not meet the RSS criterion requiring the programme to be unavailable within daily travelling distance, or that the core aim is higher than Level 3, the student has been removed from the total because they were not eligible to receive RSS funding.
Institutions without an RSS allocation in the 2015 to 2016 academic year that are approached by a student for help with residential costs should follow the normal EFA business case process to request an allocation. The business case should provide the student(s) home postcode and details of their substantial Level 2 or 3 qualification to enable the EFA to check if the student is eligible (subject to the institution’s assessment of their household income etc.) as part of the consideration of the business case.
Institutions should use the funding allocated to them for RSS solely to support eligible students with residential costs in line with the RSS scheme rules. The funding cannot be used for any other purpose.
Data and management information requirements
The EFA will ask institutions to complete a short management information return in October to report the number of students who received RSS and the amount of funding spent. As is the case with the Residential Bursary Fund, any unspent funds will be recovered. Data supplied in this return will be used to generate future allocations.
In the longer term, the EFA will use data from the ILR (Learner Funding and Monitoring (FAM); learner support reason) to identify students who have been assessed as eligible for RSS and who have taken up the funding to generate subsequent allocations. Institutions are strongly encouraged to complete these fields. The EFA will review data periodically throughout the year including R14. This information will enable the development of RSS policy and help target RSS funding.
Institutions should maintain accurate and up to date records to evidence which students receive RSS funding; confirm student eligibility for funding and demonstrate appropriate use of funds. The sections on RSS applications and verification of local availability of provision also highlight a number of points for institutions to consider.
The administration and allocation of RSS is subject to the institution’s normal governance and audit regimes. RSS funding is also subject to internal checks using your data returns and external visits as part of the normal assurance arrangements for 16 to 19 education and training. Institutions should note that, following an audit/check, funding may be recovered where RSS payments are found not to have been made in accordance with this guide.
Institutions who would like further information about RSS in the 2015 to 2016 academic year, should contact the EFA at enquiries.EFA@education.gsi.gov.uk