Guidance for all institutions administering the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund in the 2019 to 2020 academic year.
Who this guide is for
This guide is for all institutions that administer the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund. This includes schools, academies, further education (FE) colleges, sixth-form colleges, training providers, specialist independent providers and local authorities. Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) calls all of these institutions throughout this guide.
This guide is non-statutory. However, ESFA expects institutions to use it as the basis of their bursary policies and to be able to show they comply with it at any audit.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) specific update
As a result of COVID-19, all 16 to 19 education providers have been asked to continue to deliver their provision online where possible.
ESFA recognises that some 16 to 19 students from disadvantaged households may not be able to access their required online learning since they lack a suitable device such as a laptop and/or internet access and can’t afford the cost of these from their own household funds.
The 16 to 19 Bursary Fund can already be used to provide necessary equipment to students who cannot afford this and to help with other necessary costs of participating in education. As well as 16 to 19 Bursary Funding, some institutions will also receive free meals in further education funding which providers may use as a single allocation to best support the needs of their students.
Wherever possible, providers should use their existing funding, including any bursary and/or free meals funding carried forward from previous academic years to provide support to students. This will include the funding paid in April 2019 as part of the standard, annual allocation of bursary and free meals in FE funding; and any additional Bursary Fund or free meals funding awarded via the in-year growth process.
Providers are already making decisions about whether Bursary Fund payments remain appropriate for students, depending on the reason they were awarded (the cost of travel to the provider, for example, will not necessarily always be required).
However, where providers can evidence that they do not have sufficient bursary funds available to support disadvantaged students, either because they are fully committed or fully spent - ESFA is operating a business case process that will assess requests for additional funding, where appropriate, for devices and/or internet connectivity. Full details, including a business case template that must be completed, are below.
The deadline for submission of business cases is 31 July 2020.
16 to 19 bursary fund rules
Providers must ensure that they continue to follow the existing funding rules for the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund, as set out in this guidance.
This includes support being based on an assessment of individual student need and requiring students to return equipment purchased from bursary funding at the end of their study programme to allow it to be re-used by other students.
Free meals in further education
Providers are also expected to continue to support students who are eligible for, and usually receive, free meals in further education whether they are continuing to attend the provider or are now at home, in line with the funding rules set out in the free meals in further education guide. We have published guidance, criteria and templates to help 16 to 19 providers with a free meals in further education allocation access the national meals voucher scheme and if necessary request extra free meals funding. This should not form part of your business case for additional bursary funding.
16 to 19 Bursary Fund: a summary
The 16 to 19 Bursary Fund provides financial support to help students overcome specific financial barriers to participation so they can remain in education.
There are 2 types of 16 to 19 bursaries:
- bursaries for defined vulnerable groups of up to £1,200 a year
- discretionary bursaries which institutions award to meet individual needs, for example, help with the cost of transport, meals, books and equipment
Key points for the 2019 to 2020 academic year
The Department for Education (DfE) made additional bursary funding available to institutions delivering industry placements in the 2018 to 2019 academic year. DfE will also be providing additional funding in the 2019 to 2020 academic year. This funding helps ensure institutions are able to meet potential increased demand from students who may need to travel further to access their placement and/or incur additional participation costs, such as for equipment or clothing. Institutions must ensure the additional bursary funding is used in line with the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund rules set out in this guide and not guidance related to CDF.
Institutions must ensure they assess the needs of individual students when awarding bursary funding. ESFA audit and assurance work and ongoing monitoring/feedback activity by DfE has found a considerable number of institutions are making flat rate payments to students without any consideration of individual student needs. The bursary fund is designed to help students overcome the individual financial barriers to participation that they face and ensure the funds go to those who genuinely need them.
Eligibility criteria: all bursaries
A student must be aged 16 or over but under 19 at 31 August 2019 to be eligible for help from the bursary fund in the 2019 to 2020 academic year.
Students aged 19 or over are only eligible to receive a discretionary bursary 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).
These 2 groups of aged 19+ students can receive a discretionary bursary while they continue to attend education (in the case of a 19+ continuer, this must be the same programme they started before they turned 19), as long as their eligibility continues and their institution considers they need the support to continue their participation.
Students aged 19 or over are not eligible for bursaries for vulnerable groups.
Institutions should generally only pay bursaries to students aged 16 or over. However, in exceptional circumstances institutions may use their discretion to pay bursaries to younger students, for example, where a student is following an accelerated study programme. Exceptional circumstances do not include students aged 14 to 16 who are attending college as part of their key stage 4 programme.
Students aged under 19 enrolled on higher education qualifications are not eligible for support.
Eligible education provision
Students must be participating in provision that is subject to inspection by a public body that assures quality (for example Ofsted). The provision must also be either:
- funded directly by ESFA or by ESFA via a local authority
- funded or co-financed by the European Social Fund
- otherwise publicly funded and lead to a qualification (up to and including level 3) accredited by Ofqual or on the ESFA list of qualifications approved for funding 14 to 19
- a 16 to 19 traineeship programme
Students on apprenticeship programmes, or any waged training, are employed, rather than in education. They are not eligible for the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund.
Non-employed students aged 16 to 19 who are participating in a Prince’s Trust Team Programme are eligible to receive the bursary in the same way as any other student participating in an eligible, publicly funded course.
ESFA does not expect students on distance learning provision to need help from the bursary fund. This is because they do not have the kinds of costs the bursary is intended to cover (travel, equipment and uniforms, for example). In the rare instances where an institution identifies that such a student does require financial help, institutions should provide support should in-kind rather than by cash payments. An example could be providing a temporary travel pass for the student to attend exams.
Students must meet the residency criteria in ESFA funding regulations for post-16 provision. This document also specifies the evidence institutions must see and retain for audit to confirm eligibility for post-16 funding.
Accompanied asylum seeking children (under 18 with an adult relative or partner)
Generally, asylum seekers are not entitled to public funds. Accompanied asylum seeking children (those under 18 with an adult relative or partner) and those aged 18 and above are entitled to education, but not to public funds. If they are destitute they can apply to the Home Office for suitable housing and cash for essentials, but they are not eligible for other income.
As long as an asylum seeker has not had their application for asylum refused, institutions can provide in-kind student support such as books, equipment or a travel pass. Under no circumstances should an institution give cash to any asylum seeker unless they are an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child (UASC).
Unaccompanied asylum seeking children
Unaccompanied asylum seeking children do not receive cash support from the Home Office and are the responsibility of the local authority. They are treated as looked after children and are eligible for a bursary for vulnerable groups (‘in care’ group), where they have a financial need.
When these young people reach legal adulthood at age 18, institutions must consider their immigration status. If the asylum claim is decided in their favour, the local authority must provide them with the same support and services as they do care leavers. As such, they continue to be eligible for a bursary as a student from a vulnerable group until they reach the upper age limit.
Where an asylum claim is not supported, the individual may not be able to stay legally in the UK. When asylum claims have been fully heard/the appeals process exhausted, an individual has no entitlement to public funds (with a few exceptions where the withdrawal of support would be seen as a breach of human rights).
Eligibility criteria: bursaries for young people in defined vulnerable groups
Students who meet the criteria, and who have a financial need, can apply for a bursary for vulnerable groups. The defined groups reflect that these students may need a greater level of support to enable them to continue to participate. Institutions must ensure students are eligible for the bursary for defined vulnerable groups in each year they require support.
The defined vulnerable groups are students who are:
- in care
- care leavers
- receiving Income Support, or Universal Credit because they are financially supporting themselves or financially supporting themselves and someone who is dependent on them and living with them such as a child or partner
- receiving Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments in their own right as well as Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit in their own right
To reflect the ongoing rollout of Universal Credit, we made amendments to the wording of one of the defined vulnerable group categories for the 2018 to 2019 academic year. We are continuing to review the descriptions of the defined vulnerable groups to ensure they accurately reflect the purpose of the scheme.
The bursary for vulnerable groups can pay up to £1,200 per year to a student participating on a study programme that lasts for 30 weeks or more. Students on study programmes of less than 30 weeks should be paid a pro-rata amount.
Institutions may decide that although a young person may be eligible for a bursary because they are in one or more of the defined vulnerable groups, they do not have any actual financial need. This might be because their financial needs are already met and/or because they have no relevant costs. Institutions can refuse a student’s application on this basis. Similarly, students should only receive the amount they actually need to participate and not automatically receive £1,200 if they do not need the full amount.
Equally, institutions can pay a bursary to a vulnerable group student of more than £1,200 if they assess they need extra help to remain in education. Any payments over £1,200 must be paid from their discretionary bursary allocation or from their own funds.
Defining in care and care leavers
The 16 to 19 Bursary Fund defines ‘in care’ as ‘Children looked after by a local authority on a voluntary basis (section 20 of the Children Act 1989) or under a care order (section 31 of the Children Act 1989) - Section 22 of the Children Act 1989 defines the term ‘looked after child’.’
A ‘care leaver’ is defined as:
- a young person aged 16 and 17 who was previously looked after for a period of 13 weeks consecutively (or periods amounting to 13 weeks), which began after the age of 14 and ended after the age of 16; or
- a young person aged 18 or above who was looked after prior to becoming 18 for a period of 13 weeks consecutively (or periods amounting to 13 weeks), which began after the age of 14 and ended after the age of 16
Foster care, including privately arranged foster care
A young person placed with a foster carer by the local authority, including where the foster carer is on the books of an independent fostering agency, is classed as looked after. They are in a defined vulnerable group (‘in care’) and eligible for help from the bursary for vulnerable groups, where they need financial support to participate.
A child who is privately fostered (in other words, a private arrangement is made between the parent and the person who will care for the child) is not classed as a looked after child and is not eligible for the bursary for vulnerable groups.
In some instances, a young person may have been in the care of the local authority and the care transferred to another party via a permanent form of fostering such as a Special Guardianship Order. In these circumstances, the young person is defined as having left care so is now a care leaver. They are in a defined vulnerable group (‘care leaver’) and eligible for help from the bursary for vulnerable groups, where they need financial support to participate.
Universal Credit (UC) is being rolled out across the country and will gradually replace Income Support and Employment and Support Allowance as well as other benefits. Institutions will increasingly see students claiming bursaries for defined vulnerable groups based on receiving UC.
UC award notifications do not include any information on the benefits they replace. For this reason, the description of the bursaries for vulnerable group category that relates to receipt of UC or Income Support is that a student must be receiving UC because they are financially supporting themselves and anyone who is dependent on them and living with them such as a child or partner.
We made amendments to the wording of one of the defined vulnerable group categories for the 2018 to 2019 academic year to reflect the ongoing roll out of UC. We are continuing to review the descriptions of the defined vulnerable groups to ensure they accurately reflect the purpose of the scheme.
Bursary funds awarded to a student should not form part of the UC assessment undertaken by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). How DWP treat any funding for education depends on whether the student is undertaking advanced full time education. It is unlikely that 16 to 18 year olds will be in advanced full time education as they are generally on study programmes at Level 3 or below.
However, if a student is in advanced full time education, the position is slightly different. Any educational grant or award, such as the bursary fund, would be treated as grant income. However, the UC assessment excludes any grant payment intended to meet the cost of books and equipment or travel expenses incurred because of attending a course.
We do encourage institutions to provide support from the bursary fund by making payments in kind where possible. Institutions must not make bursary fund payments as regular payments for living costs. This is out of scope of the bursary fund and any such payments would be subject to the Social Security Amendment (Students and Income-related Benefits) Regulations 2000.
Evidence of eligibility
Institutions must obtain proof that students are eligible for a bursary for vulnerable groups. Institutions should ask for evidence from each student and retain copies for audit purposes. For example:
for students who are in care or a care leaver, written confirmation of their current or previous looked-after status from the relevant local authority - this is the local authority that looks after them or provides their leaving care services. The evidence could be a letter or an email but must be clearly from the local authority
for students in receipt of Income Support or Universal Credit, a copy of their Income Support or Universal Credit award notice. This must clearly state that the claim is in the student’s name/confirm they are entitled to the benefits in their own right. The evidence must not state any conditions that prevent them from participating in further education or training. For students in receipt of Universal Credit, institutions must also see a tenancy agreement in the student’s name, a child benefit receipt, children’s birth certificates, utility bills etc
for students receiving UC/ESA and Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments, a copy of their UC claim from DWP (UC claimants should be able to print off details of their award from their online account). Evidence of receipt of Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment, must also be provided
Institutions must only submit a funding claim to the Student Bursary Support Service (SBSS) online portal for bursaries for vulnerable groups when they have seen and verified appropriate evidence to confirm that the student is eligible, and ensured the student needs financial support to participate.
Pro-rata bursaries for vulnerable groups
Students who meet the criteria for a bursary for vulnerable groups are eligible for a bursary of up to £1,200 if they are on a study programme which lasts for 30 weeks or more in the academic year. Students who meet the criteria and who are on study programmes lasting for less than 30 weeks should be given a bursary on a pro-rata basis.
- a student is on a 30 week programme. If the institution assesses they have financial needs that require a full £1,200 - if paid weekly, the bursary would be £1,200 ÷ 30 = £40 per week
- if the same student was on a 10 week programme, the pro-rata bursary would be £40 x 10 weeks = £400
Young people eligible for a bursary for vulnerable groups who don’t require bursary funding
In some cases, a young person might meet the eligibility criteria for a bursary for vulnerable groups but their financial needs are already met, they have no relevant costs or do not need the maximum award.
- a student attending specialist residential provision that covers their educational costs in full
- a student taking a distance learning programme who has no financial barriers to participation (for example, they don’t have any travel costs or meal costs)
- a student in the care of the local authority whose educational costs are covered in full by the local authority
- a student who is financially supported by their partner
In these circumstances, institutions can refuse the student’s application. The institution should explain to the student and/or the student’s parents the aim of bursary funding and why they are not awarding any bursary.
If a student, or the student’s parents, still wants to claim a bursary for vulnerable groups, institutions should consider the particular circumstances in each case. They should assess whether no bursary should be awarded (because the student has no financial needs) or to award a reduced amount (because the financial help needed is limited).
ESFA recommends that institutions should be clear in their bursary fund application form that there is a possibility of no award or a limited award. This ensures all parties understand that meeting the criteria for a bursary for vulnerable groups does not automatically mean funding will be given. Institutions may also wish to review their forms to avoid any terminology that may imply a bursary is guaranteed, including the title of the award.
Eligibility criteria: discretionary bursaries
Institutions make discretionary bursary awards to students to help them overcome the individual barriers to participation they face. This means to help with the cost of travel, to buy essential books, equipment or specialist clothing (such as protective overalls, for example). These are items the student would otherwise need to pay for in order to participate.
The bursary fund is not intended to provide learning support - services that institutions give to students - for example, counselling or mentoring, or to support extra-curricular activities where these are not essential to the students’ study programme.
Institutions decide which students receive a discretionary bursary. They set their own eligibility criteria but must comply with the eligibility conditions of the scheme set out in this guide. Institutions must ensure that students are eligible for the discretionary bursary in each year they require support.
All decisions about which students receive a discretionary bursary and how much bursary they receive must be based on each student’s individual circumstances and their actual financial need. These will vary from student to student, depending on, for example, their household income, the distance they need to travel to the institution and the requirements of their study programme. Institutions must not make blanket or flat rate payments to all students or to students in particular income bands without considering the actual needs of each student.
Institutions must manage the number and size of discretionary bursary awards to keep within their budget.
Institutions may decide to retain a small emergency fund from their allocation to support students who face exceptional circumstances during the year that impact on their ability to participate. They may also choose to top up the bursary with their own funds to support students who are in need.
There is no set limit for the amount of discretionary bursary that can be awarded to students. Institutions can award discretionary bursaries equal to or higher than the bursary for vulnerable groups maximum as long as they have clearly identified an individual student requires this level of funding.
Using household income and establishing individual student need
Institutions must ensure their bursary policy ensures funding reaches those students who are most in need of financial support. Institutions should use household income in some way to help establish the amount of support they award to a student. This can be used in conjunction with other factors, such as distance to travel from the institution and the number of dependent children in the household.
It is for institutions to decide the process they use to assess household income, and the specific evidence they request from students/their families. However, DfE is aware that some institutions are unsure about how to use Universal Credit (UC) award notices when these are provided as evidence of household income. DfE suggests institutions may wish to ask for the 3 most recent monthly award statements. The take-home pay figure in addition to the amount of UC after all deductions will give a total monthly income. Using 3 months statements will act as a guide to the household income for a quarter of a year. Institutions could then estimate assumed income for a full year.
An example of a UC award notice is below. The notice shows the 2 highlighted figures – one for take-home pay; one for the amount of UC after deductions – that should be added together to give a monthly total.
Institutions are encouraged to keep their bursary policies under review to ensure they continue to provide support to students who need it. For example, students not necessarily in receipt of free school meals or benefits but from households where parents are in lower income jobs and may struggle to provide students with all the books and equipment they need or to cover all their travel costs.
Institutions engaged in industry placement delivery are also encouraged to ensure their bursary policies are able to respond to the needs of those students who may incur extra participation costs, for example, to pay for additional travel to their placement.
Publishing bursary fund policies
Institutions must publish a policy or statement setting out how they will use their bursary fund. The document should be available early enough for students to be able to use the information when deciding which post-16 institution to attend. The institution’s eligibility criteria must be clear and available to students and to ESFA. The policy document must state that the support available to students is from the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund and institutions must be mindful of this if they develop their own financial support branding, and/or use their own funding to enhance their offer to students.
Institutions must comply with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 when setting their criteria and must not discriminate against their students, either directly or indirectly, because of their protected characteristics.
Bursary fund policies should clearly set out what type of help the institution offers, for example, help with transport, books and equipment, field trips and other course-related costs and whether bursary support is available to contribute to the costs of attending university interviews and open days.
Institutions should remember that whilst the discretionary bursary can be used for transport costs, it does not replace the statutory transport duty local authorities have.
Each local authority must publish an annual transport statement that sets out the arrangements they will make to facilitate participation in education or training for students aged 16 to 19. Institutions should consider the relevant local authority’s transport statement when setting their bursary fund policy.
Managing bursary fund applications
Institutions develop and use their own application forms for the bursary fund.
Institutions delivering standard academic year provision may wish to specify that all applications for the bursary are submitted by a set date so they can assess the overall level of demand holistically and make discretionary awards on a fair basis. Any specific deadline date should be clearly stated in the application form.
However, it is important to bear in mind that a student’s circumstance and needs may change later in the year. Consequently, ESFA recommends that there should be no absolute cut-off point for applications.
Institutions delivering short programmes or roll-on roll-off provision should enable students to apply for help from the bursary fund at any point during the year.
The institution’s application process must maintain confidentiality and their application form, promotional materials etc. should emphasise this message, so students don’t feel embarrassed about applying.
Application forms, bursary polices and any supporting information must all be clear that students who meet the criteria for bursaries for vulnerable groups are not automatically entitled to a bursary if they do not have financial needs and/or their financial needs are covered from other sources.
It is best practice for students and/or their families to sign a declaration when they apply for help from the bursary to confirm that the evidence they have provided is correct and complete to the best of their knowledge and belief. Students and their families should be made aware that giving false or incomplete information that leads to incorrect/overpayment may result in future payments being stopped and any incorrectly paid funds being recovered. They should also be informed that this might result in a referral to the police with the possibility of the student and/or their family facing prosecution.
What the bursary fund cannot be used for
The bursary fund is not intended to provide learning support - services that institutions give to students - for example, counselling or mentoring, or to support extra-curricular activities where these are not essential to the students’ study programme.
Institutions are not permitted to use the bursary fund in any way that would give them a competitive advantage over other institutions. Examples include:
- fees for access to facilities in the institution
- block subsidy of the canteen
- block subsidy of transport, or support for travel for all students regardless of family incomes
- block provision of equipment, material or books
- making bonus payments to reward attendance or achievement
- payments to support student’s general living costs
Institutions must not use the bursary as a way of incentivising attendance or as a marketing tool to encourage students to choose their institution over another.
Where institutions use non-bursary funds to provide free travel for all their students, they must make clear that this is an offer from the institution, rather than being supported via the bursary fund.
Paying bursary funding to eligible students
ESFA encourages institutions to pay bursaries in-kind rather than cash as far as possible. This helps ensure that the bursary is spent for the reasons it was awarded. In-kind payments can include travel passes, vouchers or credits for meals, required books and required equipment.
Where institutions make in-kind payments to students they should explain to the student the value of the payments and how these have been deducted from their total bursary award.
Where institutions make bursary fund payments to students rather than providing support in-kind, it is good practice to pay the funding by BACS transfer to the student’s own bank account. A basic bank account (which students can open at age 16) allows BACS transfers and allows the student to withdraw money. More information on basic bank accounts can be found at British Bankers’ Association.
Institutions can insist that students only spend the bursary payments they have made to them on the support that has been identified as necessary to help them participate in education. This means they can specify students can only use the funds to pay for travel costs and/or a meal during the day, to buy equipment or any other support that has been agreed.
ESFA does not expect bursary payments to be paid into another person’s account, except in exceptional circumstances where a student is unable to administer their own account. If the student cannot manage their own funds, the institution will need to consider who will manage the bursary on the student’s behalf
Where payments are made, it is good practice to make these on a regular basis (weekly, for example) as this helps students manage their finances. It also means that if a student has a payment withheld due to failing to meet the conditions the institution has set, they will not be left without financial support for a long period. However, institutions should take these decisions based on the reasons the bursary was awarded, the student’s circumstances and local arrangements.
ESFA does not recommend that large or lump sum bursary payments are made to students.
Conditions for receiving bursary funding
Institutions should make payments for the bursary fund - both for the bursary for vulnerable groups and the discretionary bursary - conditional on the student meeting agreed standards of attendance and behaviour.
Institutions must ensure that any standards they set are clear, accessible and understood by students.
Institutions should ensure they obtain and retain evidence that a student has seen and agreed to the conditions. This might be an agreement signed by the student or a signed declaration that forms part of the institution’s bursary fund application form.
Institutions can withhold payments if a student does not meet agreed standards, but they should always consider the individual circumstances of the student first. Sanctioning a student to the extent that their bursary funding had been stopped for a whole term, for example, is not recommended as it can stop students attending and undermine the purpose of the bursary fund.
Institutions should consider the impact on attendance that might be caused by illness, caring responsibilities or other exceptional circumstances. This should be built into the payment conditions agreed between the student and their institution, so that both parties are aware of the potential effect on payments.
Institutions should stop payments where students have been absent for a period of 4 continuous weeks or more (excluding holidays, or if there is evidence that the student intends to return) and where students have made a decision to withdraw from a study programme. Institutions can also take money back from students if they have not spent it for the reasons it was awarded to them. However, institutions should consider the impact of such an action on the individual student before taking a final decision to do so.
If an institution purchases books or equipment for a student, they can specify the student must return these at the end of their study programme so they can be used again by another student where appropriate. So, if an institution purchases equipment that is necessary for the student to complete their study programme, they can purchase this with bursary funds and specify the student must return it once they have completed their study programme. If keeping equipment on campus is the best way of ensuring this happens, institutions have the right to set this as a condition.
Institutions’ responsibilities in managing complaints or appeals
Any student or parent who is unhappy with how an institution has handled their application for bursary funding should follow the institution’s own complaints procedure.
Institutions should handle the escalation of complaints about the bursary fund in the same way as any other complaint they may receive.
ESFA does not have a role in the administration of bursary funding to students 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 bursary fund eligibility criteria or any content within this guide is being seriously disregarded.
16 to 19 Bursary Fund and receipt of DWP benefits
Institutions may wish to highlight to students and parents the impact of receipt of the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund on other benefits.
Receipt of bursary funding does not affect receipt of other means-tested benefits paid to families, such as Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Child Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. See also the Universal Credit section of this document.
If a student is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (or Personal Independence Payments) and Employment Support Allowance, parents can no longer receive certain household/family benefits for that child, such as child benefit.
Institutions must not make bursary fund payments as regular payments for living costs. This is out of scope of the bursary fund and any such payments would be subject to the Social Security Amendment (Students and Income-related Benefits) Regulations 2000.
Funding and allocations: bursary for vulnerable groups
Drawing down funding for vulnerable groups
Institutions should draw down funding for bursaries for vulnerable groups from the Student Bursary Support Service (SBSS) online portal whenever they identify and verify new students who meet the criteria. Institutions can submit as many funding claims as they need to throughout the academic year. Institutions must ensure they have fully verified the student’s eligibility and need for a bursary for vulnerable groups before submitting any funding claim.
Institutions should not hold onto claims until the end of the academic year and submit them retrospectively for payment. Submitting funding claims regularly helps ESFA to monitor the number of eligible students and the funding that is required to support them. It also ensures institutions do not need to use their discretionary bursary fund allocations to make payments for bursaries for vulnerable groups.
Institutions draw the funding down by completing and submitting a bursary for vulnerable groups funding claim via the new SBSS online portal which will be available from 1 September 2019. The deadline for the submission of 2019 to 2020 academic year funding claims is 31 July 2020. The SBSS will not pay any claims submitted after this date.
Guidance on the use of the portal will be provided, but if institutions need any further help, they can contact the SBSS provider helpline on 0300 303 8610. Institutions must retain a copy of the funding claims they submit to SBSS for audit.
How the SBSS processes and pays funding claims
The SBSS carries out checks on the funding claim forms to verify that institutions are eligible to claim and that the form has been correctly completed. The usual processing time for a claim is within 2 weeks.
Once processed, a funding statement will be issued (which can be viewed in the online portal) that confirms the amount that will be paid. Payments will only be made to the institution’s bank account as held by ESFA. No other bank account or method of payment is permitted.
A remittance advice will be issued for each successful funding claim. This gives a breakdown by student ID of the individual payments that make up the total. It also includes a payment reference number that institutions will see on their bank accounts to allow easy tracking of payments.
If the SBSS tries to make a payment which the BACS system cannot verify (a ‘BACS reject’) they will contact institutions to check the bank account details. Payment will be delayed until the details have been verified.
Institutions should contact SBSS if they have any queries about funding claims they cannot resolve by using the information in the online portal.
All ESFA funded institutions in receipt of a discretionary bursary allocation in the 2019 to 2020 academic year and institutions delivering 16 to 19 traineeships in the academic year can submit a funding claim for bursaries for vulnerable groups if they have eligible students. Payment will be dependent on whether an institution has signed and returned their ESFA funding contract.
Institutions who are not in receipt of a discretionary bursary allocation in the 2019 to 2020 academic year may submit a funding claim for bursaries for vulnerable groups if they have eligible students. However, SBSS will need to make further checks with ESFA before funding can be released.
Funding claims for students placed in independent provision
Local authorities are responsible for submitting funding claims for students eligible for bursaries for vulnerable groups who they have placed in independent provision.
The independent education institution must verify that students meet the criteria and are eligible for a bursary for vulnerable groups. Once they are satisfied the student is eligible, they should contact the relevant local authority. The local authority cannot submit a funding claim without formal confirmation of eligibility from the institution. The institution can provide confirmation by sending the local authority a copy of the evidence they have seen or by setting out in writing/by e-mail to the local authority that they have seen evidence to confirm eligibility.
The SBSS will pay the funding to the local authority if the funding claim is successful. Education institutions making funding claims through local authorities must ensure they liaise with the local authority finance contact to ensure the bursary funds are redirected to them as appropriate.
Recycling bursaries for vulnerable groups funding
Institutions may accrue some unused funding for bursaries for vulnerable groups during the academic year. For example, if a student leaves early after only receiving part of their bursary or the institution does not pay the full amount to a student because they did not meet the agreed conditions.
Institutions are expected to recycle this funding and use it to offset funding claims for other eligible students until 30 April 2020. For example, rather than claiming £1,200 for a newly identified student who meets the criteria for a bursary for vulnerable groups, the institution may already have £700 that they claimed for a student who has now left. The institution should recycle the £700 for the new student, claiming only £500 from the SBSS to give them the total amount of funding they need.
Institutions can add any funding for bursaries for vulnerable groups they have claimed, but no longer need, for eligible students to their discretionary bursary allocation from 1 May 2020.
Institutions that have incorrectly claimed funding for bursaries for vulnerable groups (for example, they submitted a funding claim without verifying a student met the criteria), should try to recycle the funding on subsequent funding claims. However, if the institution has no other students who are eligible for a bursary for vulnerable groups, the incorrectly claimed funds cannot be added to their discretionary bursary allocation because they were claimed in error. Instead, institutions must contact ESFA to arrange to return the funds: email@example.com
Submitting ‘zero’ funding claims
Where an institution holds enough funds to cover the costs of a bursary for a vulnerable groups eligible student in full, ESFA asks that they submit a funding claim form to the SBSS showing a zero amount.
Similarly, if an institution has decided that a young person is in one or more of the defined vulnerable groups but does not have any actual financial need, it is also helpful if the institution submits a funding claim form showing a zero amount.
This helps give ESFA information on the number of 16 to 19 students in education who are in each of the defined vulnerable groups.
Funding and allocations: discretionary bursaries
ESFA makes discretionary bursary allocations to institutions that have a 16 to 19 contract or funding agreement each year.
If an institution operates from more than one location across England, or operates through sub-contracts, ESFA will make the allocation to the lead office for distribution to each site. Institutions should ensure that students attending provision delivered by sub-contractors or at different sites are able to apply for the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund. The lead institution is responsible for ensuring the bursary fund is administered appropriately at each site and at any sub-contractor.
ESFA has calculated discretionary bursary allocations for most institutions based on the number of students that received £30 a week EMA in the 2009 to 2010 academic year, as a percentage of the 2010 to 2011 funded student numbers. This percentage is applied to institutions 2019 to 2020 allocated student numbers and multiplied by the 2019 to 2020 discretionary bursary funding rate of £298. For example:
- if the percentage is 40%, and there are 500 allocated student numbers, this generates an allocation based on 200 students x £298
Where an institution had no EMA students in the 2009 to 2010 academic year or where the provision was new in 2011 to 2012 or later, allocations are based on applying the national EMA average figure to the institution’s 2019 to 2020 allocated student numbers.
Discretionary bursary allocations are paid in 2 parts - two-thirds in August; one-third in April. The first payment for academies is September, in line with general academy payment schedules.
Any school sixth-forms that convert to academies in September will have already received their first bursary payment in August (via the local authority as school sixth-forms). ESFA will make subsequent bursary payments directly to the academy.
ESFA makes discretionary bursary allocations to maintained schools with an ESFA funded sixth-form through local authorities. Local authorities should pass this bursary funding to the school.
Maintained special schools
Local authorities will also receive discretionary bursary funding to support students at maintained special schools. ESFA bases allocations on the data used to generate High Needs Student (HNS) funding for the 2019 to 2020 academic year. The bursary funding is aggregated and paid as a lump sum to each local authority. The local authority is asked to distribute the bursary funding across all their MSS, according to need.
ESFA will make discretionary bursary funding available to institutions that start delivering eligible education and training for ESFA for the first time in the 2019 to 2020 academic year when a contract or funding agreement is generated.
To be eligible for an allocation, the institution must meet the eligible provision criteria set out at in this guide. ESFA may also undertake a financial health assessment of the institution before deciding to allocate funding.
Additional bursary funding for T Levels and industry placements
The roll-out of T levels and industry placements is likely to increase the demand for help from the discretionary bursary. Students may need to travel further to access their placement and/or incur additional costs for equipment and clothing. Institutions delivering industry placements have access to the Capacity and Delivery Fund (CDF) which can be used to support additional costs for students where necessary.
Additional discretionary bursary funding is being made available to institutions with CDF funding in the 2019 to 2020 academic year to reduce the risk of institutions having insufficient discretionary bursary funding to support the needs of students. The additional funding is an interim arrangement and institutions should not expect any additional funding in future years.
The additional funding is not ring-fenced for students on industry placement but is part of the institution’s overall bursary fund allocation. Institutions must use the funding in line with the rules set out in this guide and not guidance on CDF.
The additional funding has been calculated as follows:
Minimum number of students undertaking a work placement (20% of the vocational students on whom the CDF allocation is based)
x £100 (the discretionary bursary fund unit cost is £298; £100 is the pro rata amount equivalent to one term, reflecting the length of the extended work placement)
x double the uplift of Disadvantage Block 1 = additional funding (or minimum £100; whichever is the higher)
Where institutions’ existing discretionary bursary allocation is sufficient to cover the costs of students accessing industry placements, for example the additional funding is not required; they must contact ESFA to return the additional funding.
The Care to Learn scheme (which provides help with childcare costs for young parents in education) pays childcare whilst students are participating in work and industry placements, as long as the placement is a defined part of their study programme. Where help with childcare costs is required, institutions should encourage young parents to apply for Care to Learn (if they have not already done so), including the dates of their placement in their application. Childcare costs must be supported by Care to Learn and not from institutions’ discretionary bursary allocations.
Institutions must ensure students eligible for free meals in further education continue to be provided with a meal whilst on their extended work placement.
Institutions are permitted to use up to 5% of their allocation for administrative costs. Institutions that receive both a 16 to 19 Bursary Fund and free meals in further education allocation are permitted to use up to 5% of the combined allocation for administration.
Institutions must ensure they do not take a sum that is greater than 5% of the single allocation total.
Rules on unspent bursary funds
ESFA permits institutions to carry unspent bursary funds over to the next academic year. Any funds carried forward must continue to be used to support students. They cannot be added to general institution funds.
Where institutions are given a single overall allocation that includes funding for both free meals and the discretionary bursary, they can carry forward funds from both schemes. The funding may be used for either free meals or discretionary bursary payments in the new academic year.
Institutions must fully utilise any unspent funds for either discretionary bursary or free meals before using their new academic year allocation.
Discretionary bursary and/or free meals funding cannot be carried forward for more than one year. Institutions must inform ESFA of the total amount of any unspent funds (not previously reported) from any year up to and including the 2017 to 2018 academic year by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. ESFA will recover the unspent funds.
Completing the ILR/School Census
ESFA reminds institutions of the importance of completing the Individualised Learner Record (ILR) or school census, as appropriate, to indicate the numbers of students receiving support from the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund.
Institutions must also ensure they complete the new ILR or census fields to provide data on the number of students participating in extended work placements.
ESFA operates an in-year growth process for discretionary bursaries based on ILR/census data. This is similar to the in-year growth process for 16 to 19 programme funding and will release additional funding to institutions where data indicates it is needed. This process will factor in delivery of industry placements. Any growth/additional funding is subject to affordability.
Audit, assurance and fraud
16 to 19 Bursary Funds are subject to normal assurance arrangements for 16 to 19 education and training. Institutions should ensure they have appropriate processes in place to record bursary applications and awards (including the number, value, purpose, whether awarded or not, and a brief justification for the decision). They must also be able to confirm, during any audit, the amount of any unspent funds that have been carried forward to the current academic year.
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 bursary and the funds that they have issued to the student. Auditors will be looking for evidence that institutions have applied their bursary fund eligibility criteria correctly and used a consistent application and assessment process for all students. Some institutions use an eligibility checklist to confirm which documents they have seen for each student.
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).
Examples of documentation include:
For the bursary for vulnerable groups:
- a copy of the funding claim sent to SBSS
- evidence showing that the student is eligible, for example, a letter from DWP or the local authority or a copy of the student’s online Universal Credit statement
- evidence of payments received from the SBSS, for example bank statements and remittance advices
- a copy of the student’s individual assessment of actual financial need
- evidence of payments made to the student
For the discretionary bursary:
- evidence used to assess eligibility and determine household income, such as P60’s, self-employment accounts, wage slips, a letter from DWP, copies of online statements for Universal Credit.
- a copy of the student’s individual assessment of actual financial need
- receipts for purchases made, for example, bus pass, lunch receipts or book receipts
ESFA will recover funds where auditors identify funding errors in any circumstances where the institution is not able to demonstrate at audit how their students meet the eligibility criteria of the bursary fund; and in any circumstances where the institution has claimed vulnerable group bursary payments for duplicate students.
Any concerns relating to financial irregularity or impropriety are taken seriously. ESFA will instigate investigations where it assesses that concerns have been raised in good faith and there is sufficient evidence to warrant it. Further guidance and contact details are available on GOV.UK.
Institutions are responsible for investigating instances of fraud relating to bursary fund applications. If institutions find evidence that is misleading or fraudulent information that has been knowingly submitted by a student or parent, resulting in the student receiving a bursary they were not entitled to, they should attempt to recover the overpayment from the student.
Institutions that identify significant fraud should report it to ESFA. Significant fraud involves one or more of the following:
- the amount of money is over £1,200
- the particulars of the fraud are novel, unusual, systemic or complex
- there is likely to be great public interest because of the nature of the fraud or the people involved
Free meals in further education
Institutions that receive allocations for both free meals in further education and the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund discretionary bursary have flexibility to use the funding as a single allocation. Institutions must manage the single allocation appropriately to ensure all students eligible for a free meal receive one (including when they are attending a work placement) in line with the free meals guide.
Prior to the introduction of additional funding for free meals, institutions had supported the cost of meals for students who needed them from discretionary bursaries. ESFA adjusts discretionary allocations to take account of this double funding for those institutions also in receipt of an allocation for free meals.
The free meals in further education guide gives detailed information about eligibility, the allocations methodology and how the adjustment has been calculated.
Where students are eligible for a free meal, institutions should ensure they consider the provision of a free meal, or the funding provided to the student for the free meal, when they assess their overall need for support, whether from the discretionary bursary or bursaries for vulnerable groups.
Other useful information
This section provides information on specific groups of students to help inform institution’s eligibility decisions.
Young offenders can apply for a bursary if they:
- are serving a non-custodial sentence
- have been released early from a custodial sentence (except on temporary license)
- have been remanded to a non-secure institution
Young offenders cannot apply for a bursary if they:
- are serving a custodial sentence
- have been released from a custodial sentence on temporary license
- have been remanded to a secure institution
Institutions should provide in-kind support to young offenders rather than cash wherever possible.
Residents of Scotland
If a student lives in Scotland and travels to study at an English institution, they should approach their home local authority in Scotland to make an application for Scottish Education Maintenance Allowances (EMA). These students are not eligible to apply for support from the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund.
If a student lives in England and travels to study at a Scottish institution, they should approach their home local authority in England to make an application for a discretionary or vulnerable group bursary. These students are not eligible for Scottish EMA.
Residents of Wales
If a student lives in Wales and travels to study at an English institution, they should approach their home local authority to make an application for Welsh EMA.
Students may also apply to their English institution for help from the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund discretionary bursary, but are not eligible for a bursary for vulnerable groups. Institutions should consider any support the student is receiving from Wales before making any bursary award.
All students living in England and travelling to Wales to study who meet the criteria for a bursary for vulnerable groups are eligible to apply for one if they have a financial need. They should approach their home local authority in England to make an application.
The following section highlights a number of areas of good practice in administering both types of bursary fund.
Raising awareness of the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund
Examples of policies and procedures designed to raise early awareness of the bursary include:
a college has information about the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund on the college website and in the prospectus, as well as on posters that are on display around the college throughout the year. Information is distributed at open evenings for year eleven pupils from local schools. Further information, including an application form, is available following enrolment and all new entrants receive a text message and email about the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund soon after the start of the academic year
in another college, as well as information about the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund being in prospectuses and posters, the college also works with local support services to target potential students who are homeless and provide them with information
one college markets the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund proactively by providing information to prospective students prior to enrolment at open evenings, talks at schools etc. Any young person who attends a pre-enrolment interview gets a card with brief information on the bursary and pointers directing them to the full information on the college’s website. Information is also provided in enrolment packs and in conversations with tutors. In addition, social workers who work with the most disadvantaged young people help the college to identify those who mav be eligible for the bursary for vulnerable groups
another college uses text messages throughout the year to inform students of the financial support available to them. In the summer term, text messages are sent to inform students that application forms are available to download and complete
Identifying students eligible for bursaries for vulnerable groups
Institutions can take the initiative to identify students eligible for a bursary for vulnerable groups by working with the local authority, looked after children’s education services and care leaver services, to encourage students to apply for a bursary where needed. Institutions and local authorities can also set up local data sharing agreements to share information about which students might be in need. For example, institutions might want to ask their local authority if a young person received free school meals in year 11.
Examples of working with local stakeholders to identify eligible young people:
in one area, information on the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund is included in a bulletin to social worker contacts. This is published 3 times a year, and ensures contacts are updated about the bursary
young people who might need support are identified by another college’s Inclusion Manager who has developed links with local agencies working with vulnerable young people (YMCA, Social Services, and Youth Offending Teams). This helps the college identify young people likely to be in need before enrolment so they become aware of the bursary early. They are then assisted in completing the application process if appropriate
one college employs a variety of methods to ensure eligible students are aware of the bursary. This includes promotion through partner organisations, social services, foster parent networks, schools, asylum support teams and youth offending and health services. The college works with these organisations to identify and engage with young people considering further education and to provide opportunities to discuss the support they may need
Identifying students who may need support from the discretionary bursary
Some institutions have informed the Department for Education that it can be difficult to identify which students may need help from the discretionary bursary if they do not pro-actively ask for support. General further education colleges and sixth form colleges can check the Key to Success site to find out if new students were in receipt of Pupil Premium funding in year 11 or received SEN support.
This information should not be used to guarantee support or to offer blanket support to students, however it could be a helpful source of information for institutions to use to identify students they could proactively approach to see if financial support is required (subject to the usual assessment of individual need).
Young people with caring responsibilities
Young people with caring responsibilities, for example, caring for a parent or other relative, may be reluctant to say so because of fear of being stigmatised. Institutions should ensure confidentiality to reduce these concerns, publicise the availability of help from the bursary fund and encourage young carers to apply where they have a financial need.
When assessing young carers’ eligibility for support from the bursary, institutions could consider whether they have had a young carers assessment (which includes questions about the support they need for education), whether they access a young carers service, whether their GP could confirm their caring role or whether they receive Carers Allowance. The publication Student carers in further education provides additional information institutions may find helpful.
Working with other organisations
Institutions are encouraged to work with other local institutions and the local authority to agree a common approach to the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund. This could include institutions working together to identify and support eligible students, pool funds and centrally manage and administer the bursary. For example, one group of colleges has created a Learning Executive with representatives from each local college. This meets regularly and sets a consistent approach to financial support across all colleges in the area.
Paying bursary funding to students
Institutions should always ensure students and their families know who they should contact if they have any queries about payments.
Some examples of different payment approaches used by institutions are:
one institution involves carers and social workers in establishing the most appropriate way of getting the funding to the young person. At the beginning of term, if specialist equipment and/or a travel pass is needed, the college purchases this and the cost is deducted from the student’s overall award. In cases where a carer has responsibility for the young person’s finances, meetings are set up with them to decide how payments should be made
in another institution, every student who qualifies for a bursary for vulnerable groups is offered an interview with a financial support advisor to decide together on the best way to deliver his or her support. Priority areas are addressed first; travel to college, equipment costs and support with studies. Additional expenditure such as university visits is also discussed
one institution pays students a greater amount of funding at the start of their course so they can pay for equipment and course-related items. Travel vouchers are used to pay for bus fares. The Student Services Team meet with the students regularly to help them with budgeting
How to ask a question about the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund
If institutions have a question that is not answered by this guide, please contact ESFA via our online enquiry form.
Institutions with any questions about completion of the bursary for vulnerable groups funding claim or about bursary for vulnerable groups payments made by the SBSS should contact SBSS on 0300 303 8610 or at: email@example.com