16 to 18 Residential Support Scheme for academic year 2017 to 2018

This guide is for all institutions with a 16 to 18 Residential Support Scheme (RSS) allocation in the 2017 to 2018 academic year.


This guide sets out:

  • Residential Support Scheme (RSS) policy in the 2017 to 2018 academic year
  • the requirements for the administration of the funding
  • how Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) will collect management information (MI) for the scheme

Institutions must ensure RSS is administered in line with the scheme rules set out in this guide.

The purpose of RSS

RSS is designed for the exceptional situations where the substantial Level 2 or Level 3 qualification the student needs to pursue to achieve their desired career or higher education goal cannot be accessed locally to their home. Students supported by RSS are primarily those that live rurally and have limited access to a wide range of 16 to 18 further education provision. The institutions that have students who receive help from RSS typically have only one or two students in receipt of the funding.

Student eligibility

To be eligible for RSS support in the 2017 to 2018 academic year, a student must meet the following criteria:


Students must be 16 or over but under 19 years old on 31 August 2017.

Students aged 19 or over are only eligible for RSS 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).


Students must meet the residency criteria set out in the 2017 to 2018 academic year ESFA Funding Regulations.

Household income

Students must have a household income of £30,993 or less in the previous tax year. For the 2017 to 2018 academic year, this is the 2016 to 2017 tax year. ESFA defines a household as the student and the adults they live with who are mainly responsible for them.

The amount of RSS a student is awarded is based on an income-assessment that 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 £3,458 £2,305 £1,152 nil
Maximum RSS award - inside London * £4,079 £ 2,685 £1,355 nil

These amounts are the maximum available for each income bracket. Students will be awarded the actual cost of their accommodation if this is less than the figures shown. If the study programme lasts for less than one year, the amount of RSS support will be on a proportional basis.

Students cannot receive RSS if they are in receipt of housing benefit.

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.

Study programme

Students must have 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 ESFA. Study programmes delivered by institutions that have a sub-contracting relationship with an ESFA funded institution are not eligible for RSS funding.

Institutions should refer to ESFA Funding Regulations for the 2017 to 2018 academic year for more detail about programme funding.

The full Level 2 or full Level 3 substantial qualification should normally be the student’s first qualification at those levels. In exceptional circumstances, RSS may be available to students undertaking additional qualifications at the same level they already hold. For example, if a student:

  • wishes to study a second Level 2 which is vocational and their first Level 2 was an academic qualification
  • holds a Level 2 qualification but is required by their study programme to study for a further specific Level 2 to access 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; ESFA does not expect RSS to be used for this purpose on a routine basis. Institutions should refer to ESFA if they have any doubts about particular cases.

Substantial qualification which is not available within reasonable daily travelling distance

To be eligible for RSS, a student must not be able to access the same or similar substantial Level 2 or Level 3 qualification within reasonable daily travelling distance of their home address.

When assessing RSS eligibility, it is the substantial ESFA funded qualification that is key. The study programme as a whole or the combination of different modules within it is not considered as part of the assessment of eligibility. If a student can access the substantial qualification within daily travelling distance of their home, they will not be eligible for RSS.

ESFA defines reasonable daily travelling distance as a daily return journey that takes 2 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.

Applying for RSS

Students must apply for RSS each academic year they need support from the scheme. This is to enable the institution to check that students still meet all the criteria for support, including household income.

Students apply for RSS directly from their chosen institution. Students must have an unconditional offer of a place before they can apply.

Institutions are reminded that if students apply for RSS part way through the year they may only award RSS from the beginning of the term in which the student applied.

Institutions should have their own application forms which students complete to seek RSS funding. They may wish to continue to use the example application form provided by ESFA in the 2015 to 2016 academic year, updated each year as appropriate, or can use any alternative application of their own design. All application forms used by students to apply for RSS must include all the information required to assess if students meet 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 they obtain evidence of the student’s term accommodation arrangement, for example, a copy of the student’s tenancy agreement. The tenancy agreement (or other evidence accepted by the institution) must have been agreed and signed by the student. It must 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.

Institutions must not release any RSS payments until all the required information/evidence has been provided by the student and they have fully assessed the application. This includes obtaining confirmation from ESFA that each student’s substantial qualification meets the conditions.

Institutions must make payments directly to eligible students’ landlords for their rental costs. Proof of payment should be kept for audit purposes.

Institutions should not make RSS payments to students. The only exception to this rule would be in circumstances where a student has already paid some of their rent before the institution has fully assessed their RSS application. In this instance, institutions may reimburse these costs, as long as the rental period the student has paid for is within the agreed period of the RSS award. Institutions must keep proof of payment.

Verification of the student’s substantial qualification

New students

Institutions must complete a course verification proforma to ask ESFA to verify each student’s substantial qualification as part of the RSS application process.

Institutions can verify eligibility of a new student’s substantial qualification with ESFA before they have assessed the student against the other eligibility criteria or afterwards.

Institutions may send one proforma for all new students seeking RSS funding for verification or separate proformas to verify individuals. ESFA request, however, that institutions submit course verification proformas as soon as possible in the academic year. This ensures students do not make financial commitments on the assumption they will receive RSS funding when they may not be entitled to it.

ESFA will sent institutions with an RSS allocation for the 2017 to 2018 academic year a new course verification proforma in April 2017.

Institutions must complete the proforma in full, providing the following information:

  • student’s home postcode and Individualised Learner Record number
  • institution name, delivery location postcode and UPIN
  • qualification reference number and qualification title of the substantial Level 2 or Level 3 qualification the student is following as part of their study programme

ESFA cannot verify any proforma institutions send with missing or incomplete information. Any such proformas will be returned to the institution.

Completed proformas should be sent to:

ESFA enquiries

For all enquiries for the Education and Skills Funding Agency

ESFA will use the information on the proforma to check if the same or similar substantial Level 2 or 3 qualifications each student is enrolled on is available within daily travelling distance of their home address. In undertaking the check, ESFA establishes if the student can graduate from provision with the same qualification in their local area.

ESFA will notify institutions of the outcome of the proforma check within 7 working days. The outcome will be either confirmation of the student’s eligibility or a rejection because the qualification is available close to home.

Institutions must keep a copy of ESFA’s response as part of their auditable records.

Under no circumstances should institutions give any guarantees of RSS funding to students (or their parents) or make any RSS payments before ESFA has confirmed in writing that the student’s substantial qualification meets the eligibility conditions.

If the student fails to attend the study programme including the substantial qualification that ESFA has verified, or transfers to a different study programme with a different substantial qualification, RSS funding should be withdrawn immediately. Any changes in substantial qualifications must be re-verified with ESFA.

Any withdrawals or changes should be noted in the RSS October MI return ESFA will send to institutions. Once ESFA has rejected an application because of the substantial qualification being available within daily travelling distance, the institution must reject the student’s RSS application.

Institutions must not make any RSS payments to students who have not been confirmed as eligible by ESFA.

Continuing students

Students returning to the second or subsequent year of their study programme who are continuing on the same substantial qualification ESFA verified in their first year do not need to be checked with ESFA again. Continuing students still need to meet the household income criterion and institutions will need to confirm this via an application from the student each year.

Any student verified by ESFA who changes their substantial qualification in a subsequent year must be submitted by the institution to ESFA for a new verification.

The course verification form includes a pre-populated tab which institutions should complete to confirm to ESFA that continuing students have returned as planned.

RSS Allocations

ESFA generates RSS allocations using information submitted by institution on the previous academic year course verification proforma.

The allocations methodology takes account of the number of eligible students who received RSS support in the previous year who will be returning in the 2017 to 2018 academic year. This number is multiplied by the maximum RSS funding amount per student (set out in the Household Income table).

Additional funding is then added to this total to make funds available for any eligible new students in the 2017 to 2018 academic year.

Only institutions with new RSS supported students in the 2016 to 2017 academic year will be given an RSS allocation in the 2017 to 2018 academic year.

If a student approaches an institutions without an RSS allocation for help with residential costs the institution should ask ESFA for a course verification proforma by contacting:

ESFA enquiries

For all enquiries for the Education and Skills Funding Agency

Institutions should then complete and return the proforma to ESFA. ESFA will carry out the verification check in the normal way and the student’s substantial qualification is eligible, ESFA will release RSS funding for the student to the institution.

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 and cannot be carried forward to future years.


Institutions receive RSS allocations in 3 instalments, 50% in August 2017; 25% in December 2017 and 25% in March 2018.

Data and management information requirements

ESFA will ask institutions to complete a short management information return in October to report the number of new and returning students who received RSS and the amount of funding spent. Any unspent funds will be recovered.

Data supplied in this return is used to generate future allocations. Institutions who fail to complete the return by the deadline may be subject to recovery of funds. Non-return may also affect future year’s allocations. In the longer term, ESFA will use data from the ILR (Learner Funding and Monitoring (FAM); learner support reason) to identify students assessed as eligible for RSS who have taken up the funding to generate allocations. Institutions are strongly encouraged to complete these fields.

ESFA will review ILR data periodically throughout the year including R14. This information will support the development of RSS policy and help target RSS funding.

Audit requirements

Institutions should keep accurate and up to date records to evidence which students get RSS funding; show that students are eligible for funding and show appropriate use of funds.

RSS funding is subject to the institution’s normal governance and audit regimes and is also subject to ESFA checks using data submitted as part of the RSS process (to verify student eligibility). Institutions should note that, following an audit or check that identifies any use of funds that is not in accordance with this guide, ESFA may recover funding.

Further information

Institutions who would like further information about RSS should contact ESFA via our

ESFA enquiries

For all enquiries for the Education and Skills Funding Agency

Published 2 March 2017