16 to 18 Residential Support Scheme for academic year 2018 to 2019

This guide is for all institutions with a 16 to 18 Residential Support Scheme allocation in the 2018 to 2019 academic year.

Who this guide is for

This guide is for all institutions with a 16 to 18 Residential Support Scheme (RSS) allocation in the 2018 to 2019 academic year. The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has produced it.

Residential Support Scheme: a summary

RSS is designed for the exceptional situations where the same or similar substantial Level 2 or Level 3 qualification the student needs to achieve their desired career or higher education goal cannot be accessed locally. Most students supported by RSS tend to live in rural areas and have limited access to a wide range of 16 to 18 further education provision.

Institutions that have students who receive help from RSS typically have only one or 2 students in receipt of the funding.

RSS uses nationally set household income scales which institutions assess student eligibility against.

Institutions must verify each potential RSS student’s substantial Level 2 or Level 3 qualification with ESFA. This is a key part of the eligibility process. Institutions cannot confirm to a student whether they are eligible for RSS, or make any RSS payments, until this check has been completed.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible for RSS support in the 2018 to 2019 academic year, a student must meet the following criteria:


Students must be aged 16 or over but under 19 on 31 August 2018.

Students aged 19 or over are 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 in ESFA funding regulations for post-16 provision. The regulations also specifies the evidence institutions must see and retain for audit to confirm eligibility.

Household income

RSS has a household income criterion. ESFA defines a household as the student and the adults they live with who are mainly responsible for them. The household income must be £30,993 or less in the previous tax year for the student to be eligible. For the 2018 to 2019 academic year, this is the 2017 to 2018 tax year.

The amount of RSS a student is awarded is based on an income-assessment that uses the following thresholds:

Household income Up to £21,000 £21,000 - £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

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.

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

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

Eligible education provision

To be eligible to apply for RSS, 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 2018 to 2019 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 institution’s responsibility to assess where exceptions to the first full Level 2 or first full Level 3 substantial qualification criteria are appropriate. Any 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.

The substantial ESFA funded qualification is key for RSS eligibility. 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 same or similar 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.

Application process

Students apply for RSS directly from their chosen institution.

Institutions have their own application forms that students complete to seek RSS funding. 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 time 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 is 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.

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.

If students apply for RSS part way through the year, the institution may only award RSS from the beginning of the term in which the student applied.

Verification of the student’s substantial qualification

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

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

ESFA will issue the 2018 to 2019 academic year course verification form in April 2018.

Institutions must complete the form 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 full qualification title of the substantial Level 2 or Level 3 qualification the student is following as part of their study programme
  • start and end date of the study programme

ESFA cannot verify any form institutions send with missing or incomplete information and will return any incomplete forms to the institution.

Institutions must not include any personal details for students (name, date of birth etc) on the form. ESFA will delete any forms that include personal details and ask the institution to re-submit it containing only the required information.

Completed forms should be sent to:

ESFA will check if the same or similar substantial Level 2 or 3 qualification for each student is available within daily travelling distance of their home address. In other words, if the student can achieve the same or similar qualification in their local area.

ESFA will notify institutions of the decision within 7 working days. The decision will be either to confirm the student is eligible (if the institution verifies they meet all other RSS criteria) or to reject the application because the student can achieve the same or similar qualification locally.

If ESFA rejects an application because the same or similar substantial qualification is available within daily travelling distance, the institution must reject the student’s overall RSS application.

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 criterion.

Change of study programme or withdrawals

If the student leaves the study programme, RSS payments should cease immediately.

If the student transfers to a different study programme with a different substantial qualification, the institution must submit a further course verification form to ESFA for the new qualification’s eligibility to be verified. If the student can access the new qualification in their local area, they will stop being eligible for RSS and payments should cease immediately.

Continuing students

Students in receipt of RSS who are returning to the second or subsequent year of their study programme in the 2018 to 2019 academic year do not need to have their substantial qualification checked with ESFA again.

However, 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 who changes their substantial qualification in a subsequent year must have their new qualification verified by ESFA.

Funding and allocations

ESFA has generated RSS allocations in the 2018 to 2019 academic year for institutions that had students verified as eligible for support from the scheme in the 2017 to 2018 academic year.

Where is it clear that a student is completing their study programme in the 2017 to 2018 academic year, no funding has been generated for that student.

The allocation provides funding for the actual students currently receiving RSS. It does not make any assumptions about demand in the 2018 to 2019 academic year and ESFA will release any additional funding that is needed to institutions (both those given an initial allocation and any institution that approaches us in-year with eligible students) as and when required.

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

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

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


RSS 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 RSS payment schedule and brings the schedule into line with the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund and free meals in further education.

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 RSS. 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.

ESFA 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. ESFA will reconcile RSS funds once data from the annual data return has been analysed. We will write to institutions to confirm the amount of reconciliation and the date the action will be taken.

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.

Audit and assurance

RSS is subject to normal assurance arrangements for 16 to 19 education and training. Institutions should ensure they have appropriate processes in place to record RSS 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 RSS and the funds that they have issued for the student’s costs. They should also ensure they have retained a copy of ESFA’s decision on the course verification form. Auditors will be looking for evidence that institutions have applied the RSS 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 RSS payments are found not to have been made in accordance with this guide.

Institutions’ responsibilities in managing complaints or appeals

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

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

Further information and questions

Institutions who would like further information about RSS should contact:

ESFA enquiries

For all enquiries for the Education and Skills Funding Agency

Published 12 March 2018