Funding for learning
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The Skills Toolkit
What is the Skills Toolkit?
The Skills Toolkit is a set of free courses provided by the government to help people improve skills. Each course varies in length from a few minutes to a few days to complete, but each is self-paced and taken online, meaning they offer great flexibility. The courses are provided through different companies and platforms, for example the Everyday Maths course is hosted by The Open University, and the Learn for Life course of digital skills, organisation, and finance, is provided by Lloyds Bank.
The Skills Toolkit covers:
- practical maths
- computer essentials
- personal growth and wellbeing
- professional development
- business and finance
- digital design and marketing
- computer science and coding
These areas such as maths and digital skills are essential for most jobs, so the Skills Toolkit is a great resource for those looking for employment and anyone wanting to brush up their knowledge.
How can I access these courses?
A full list of courses is provided on the National Careers Service website, just choose your course and click the link to begin learning. You can access as many of these skills courses as you’d like, and revisit them to keep your knowledge fresh.
Lifelong Loan Entitlement
What is the Lifelong Loan Entitlement?
The Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) was announced by the Department for Education in 2022, due for launch in 2025. The LLE will provide participants with loan entitlements equivalent to four years of post-18 education (£37,000 in today’s fees.) These loans can be used over the participants lifetime. It will be available for modular and full years of study at higher technical and degree levels, Levels 4 to 6, regardless of whether they are provided in colleges or universities.
Can I sign up?
The LLE is due to launch in 2025.
Details such as the eligibility conditions, and terms of repayment of the LLE loans are yet to be decided by the Government, but check the Department for Education’s Education Hub blog for details and announcements.
What is a Skills Bootcamp?
Skills Bootcamps are free, flexible courses up to 16 weeks in length, which are available to those aged 19 and over. Courses are available in areas where there are unfilled job vacancies, and give participants skills which many employers are looking for.
Courses may be online, in person, or blended depending on the course. At the end of the course participants are guaranteed a job interview. Over 100 courses in a wide variety of areas are available. A few examples include:
- Digital Skills, such as data analytics, software development or digital marketing
- Technical skills, like construction, engineering or manufacturing
- Green skills, including solar energy and agriculture technology
- HGV driving (both for beginners and for those looking to upgrade their current HGV license)
Can I sign up?
Skills Bootcamps are open to adults who are in work, self-employed, or unemployed. They are also open to serving prisoners due to be released within 6 months of completing a Skills Bootcamp and those on temporary release.
Entry requirements may vary by course, however the only essentials are a good grasp of English and a willingness to learn.
If you are on Universal Credit and wish to participate in a Skills Bootcamp, talk to your Work Coach.
Where do I sign up?
For more details and how to apply, see the Government's Skills Bootcamp site.
Looking for Skills courses outside of England? Have a look at Skill Up (Northern Ireland).
Care to Learn
What is the Care to Learn Scheme?
Care to Learn is a fund available to young parents to help them cover childcare costs while they are in education. England and Northern Ireland have their own versions of Care to Learn, so have a look at the respective government websites for differing rules. Care to Learn can cover costs of nurseries, childminders, playgroups and clubs, as well as transport to and from childcare centres. Care to Learn can cover up to £175 per week for each child.
Can I access it?
In order to receive money from the Care to Learn Scheme, you must be a parent aged 16-20 in further education in. You must be the main carer for your child, and meet residency requirements specific to your country. You are also eligible to apply if you expect to become a parent during your course. If you are eligible for childcare support from other sources, such as Tax Credits, Childcare Grant Support Funds or any other DfE programs, you are not eligible for support under Care to Learn. Stipulations vary by locality, see Northern Ireland Direct or GOV.UK for more details.
How do I apply?
Before you apply for Care to Learn, you need to choose both your learning provider and childcare provider. If you’re in Northern Ireland, the best way to apply is through your school or college. Ask them about your options and eligibility. See NI Direct for more details.In England, you can apply for Care to Learn online through the Student Bursary Support Service.
Train and Progress
What is Train and Progress (TaP)
Benefit rules allow some people to carry on training while claiming Universal Credit (UC). In order to get help with training while on UC you need to tell your Work Coach. They can then refer you to ‘Train and Progress’ (TaP), a new DWP initiative aimed at increasing access to training.
The Department for Work and Pensions’ Train and Progress (TaP) initiative means that people claiming Universal Credit can attend full time training courses for up to 12 weeks without it effecting their UC. TaP can be extended to 16 weeks if participants are enrolled in a Level 3 Skills Bootcamp.
Can I get it?
Participants must be UC claimants in the intensive work search group. In general this means that you are not disabled (or are not classed as disabled by UC) and do not have very young children who you care for.
How do I sign up?
To find out more talk to your Work Coach or see the government's announcement about TaP.
The Adult Education Budget
What is the Adult Education Budget?
The AEB is a government funded program which can be accessed by people looking to undertake a huge range of qualifications. The AEB has a massive £1.5 billion pot which is ready to be used on anyone over the age of 19 who is looking to retrain or learn new skills.
Can I get funding from the AEB?
As of 2022, certain areas of the country are largely ineligible for AEB funding, as some local authorities have opted to provide their own Adult Education funding to their localities. If you live in one of these areas, consult with your local authority to learn what your other options are.
If you are aged 19 and over and live in an eligible area, you probably can access money from the AEB.
For more details of the funding rules which may apply to you, see the Government’s in-depth report applying to 2022-2023.
If you’re seeking a Level 3 qualification, these helpful flowcharts should make it clear what you’re entitled to.
How do I claim?
The AEB is accessed through training providers such as colleges. Get in contact with your local training providers to find out how you can access funded education through the AEB.
Advanced Learner Loans
What is an Advanced Learner Loan?
An Advanced Learner Loan (ALL) can help you cover the costs of education or training, regardless of your income. The amount you get will depend on the type of course and its fees, with the minimum loan being £300. You can borrow enough to cover your fees, or just part of the sum if you can pay part of it yourself.
You can even get up to 4 loans for different courses, with the exception being Access to Higher Education courses, for which you can only get one loan.
If you use an ALL loan for an Access to Higher Education course, if you later complete a higher education course the Government will write off your outstanding ALL balance.
Can I get an Advanced Learner Loan?
To get an ALL you have to be 19 or older, be a UK national, Irish citizen or have ‘settled’ status. There is some eligibility for refugees and people of other residency statuses, please see these criteria for more details.
Your course must be a Level 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 qualification at an approved training provider. This means it must be A-Level to postgraduate qualification or equivalent. See here for a full guide to the different qualification levels.
How do I claim?
The first step to getting an Advanced Learner Loan is speaking to your college or training provider - they can tell you whether your course is eligible. You then need to ask them for a ‘Learning and funding information pack’ before you can register and apply online. See the Government’s website for more details and a link to the application form.
What is an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships are great ways for anyone over the age of 16 to learn practical skills while in a paid role. Apprenticeships combine learning and working, meaning that while you work you gain skills and qualifications, which can later be put towards further employment. The training you receive will be for a specific job, meaning you’ll have practical experience in the industry of your choice. Apprenticeships are available in a wide array of industries and are suitable for people with differing levels of previous education and qualifications.
Apprenticeships take 1 to 5 years to complete depending on the level. The level system means that different apprenticeships are equivalent to different educational levels.
Level 2, or Intermediate Apprenticeships, are the first apprenticeship level. These are equivalent to taking GCSEs or BTEC Firsts. If you don’t already have GCSEs in maths and English, some Level 2 apprenticeships will provide you with “functional skills” qualifications in numeracy and literacy.
Level 3, or Advanced Apprenticeships are equivalent taking A-Levels, the International Baccalaureate, or BTEC Nationals. Many Level 3 apprenticeships require you to have at least grade C/4 GCSEs in maths and English.
Levels 4-7, or Higher Apprenticeships, are equivalent to a higher education qualification. There is variation between different levels of higher apprenticeships, with Level 4 roughly equal to finishing the first year of university, and Level 7 being equivalent to a postgraduate degree.
During your apprenticeship, you’ll spend most of your time working with your employer, with at least 20% of your working hours spent studying. At the end of your apprenticeship, you’ll complete assessments to demonstrate that you’ve passed.
As an apprentice, you’ll earn at least £4.81 per hour, which is the minimum apprenticeship wage. After your first year, you’ll receive the general minimum wage for your age group or more depending on your employer.
Can I do an apprenticeship?
To start an apprenticeship, you have to be 16 or over and not in full time education. As you’ll apply for an apprenticeship directly through the employer, the skills and qualifications required may differ. However with hundreds of types of apprenticeships you are sure to find something that suits you.
How do I apply?
Application for apprenticeships is directly through the employers. To apply for an apprenticeship you first need to find one you like. If you live in England, the Government’s Find an Apprenticeship website is the best place to start.
If you’re in Northern Ireland, Wales, or Scotland, apprenticeships work slightly differently. Have a look at your country’s website for further guidance.
Once you’ve chosen one or more apprenticeships which look good for you, you’ll need a CV and a cover letter to apply with the employer. Have a look at the Government’s application guide for more details.
What is Learner Support?
Learner Support is a scheme which supports people aged 19 and over who find themselves facing financial difficulties while they are in further education. Learner Support is funded directly through learning providers, meaning the amount of money available varies, as well as whether it is provided in the form of a grant or a loan.
The money you receive can be put towards costs of education such as:
- Travel costs
- Materials and equipment
- A laptop and wifi
- Childcare (see also Care to Learn)
Can I access Learner Support?
Learner Support money is granted based on financial hardship. Your learning provider may require proof of this, and their criteria may vary. Your learning provider, such as your college, is your first port of call for accessing Learner Support money, as they can tell you whether or not they offer Learner Support money, and help you apply for it.
To be eligible for Learner Support there are a few further criteria. You must be 19 or over and studying a qualification at Level 3 or below. You cannot apply if you already receive student finance, or if you already receive Advanced Learner Loans to cover your expenses. However you can receive both Advanced Learner Loans and Learner Support if they are used for different costs.
See this guide for further details of who’s eligible.
How do I access Learner Support?
Start by talking to your learning provider, such as your college. If they offer Learner Support, they will have their own application process. If you’d like to learn more, visit the Government’s website.
The 16-19 Bursary Fund
What is the 16-19 Bursary Fund?
The 16-19 Bursary fund is a government allowance aimed to help students aged between 16 and 19 with education-related costs, such as transport or equipment. The bursary can be up to £1,200, depending on your eligibility.
Can I claim?
To be eligible to claim a 16-19 bursary, you must be between the ages of 16 and 19 and studying at a publicly funded school or college, or on an unpaid training course. If you are over 19 and continuing study which you started between 16 and 19, you may also be eligible to apply. Students at university or undertaking an apprenticeship are not eligible for receiving the bursary.
There are two types of 16-19 bursary. The first is for students in vulnerable groups, and the second is a discretionary bursary. See below to understand which type of bursary you may be eligible for.
Bursary for students in vulnerable groups
You may be eligible for a bursary if at least one of the following applies:
- You’re in or have recently left the care system
- You receive Income Support or Universal Credit because you’re financially supporting yourself
- You receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and either Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit
- You receive Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and either ESA or Universal Credit
Your school or college will have their own criteria for discretionary bursaries, so contact to your learning provider for more information. Usually discretionary bursaries will be means-tested, and require evidence about your individual and family circumstances.
How do I claim?
You can apply for a 16-19 bursary directly through your school, college, or training provider. For more information see the Government’s guide.
The Sector Based Work Academy Programme (SWAP)
What is a SWAP?
The Sector-based work academy programme, or SWAP, allows jobseekers and people claiming Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance, to undertake a course of training and work experience in their chosen sector. This scheme equips people with new skills and practical work-based experienced, as well as confidence in the workplace and in applying for jobs.
SWAPs last up to six weeks, and consist of three parts:
- pre-employment training – a short module of vocational training run by a local college or training provider
- work experience with an employer in the industry, where you can learn new skills on the job
- at the end of the programme, either a job interview with an employer in the sector or if an interview cannot be offered, help with the application process.
Each SWAP is linked to one or more genuine job vacancy. This does not guarantee you a job at the end of the programme, but it does give you work based skills and improve your job prospects. In some cases there are also opportunities to earn qualifications while on your SWAP.
You can continue to receive benefits while undertaking a SWAP, so speak to your Work Coach for more details. If you successfully gain a place on a SWAP, you may be entitled to funding to help cover transport, childcare, and other costs.
Can I take part in a SWAP?
If you live in England or Scotland, and claim Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, or Employment and Support Allowance, and are looking for work, you are can take part in a SWAP.
How do I apply?
Speak to your Work Coach, they can help you explore your options and see which SWAPs are available in your area. See also the Government’s Job Help website for more information.
What is Restart?
Restart is a government funded scheme, which was launched in 2021 under its Plans for Jobs package in response to a rise in unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Restart is aimed at helping people who have been unemployed for a long period of time find new employment. People who claim Universal Credit or Jobseekers Allowance may be referred by their Work Coach to the Restart scheme in their local area. Through regular contact, the Restart scheme will support the jobseeker, tailoring their service to their needs. This could mean guidance with job applications, or referrals for further training and qualifications.
Can I get a place on Restart?
If you are an out of work adult claiming Universal Credit or Income Based Jobseekers Allowance, your Work Coach can refer you to you local Restart provider. Restart will then provide you with a personal advisor, who can help you with your CV, find jobs to apply to, with interview practice and more.
Speak to your Jobcentre Plus Work Coach if you'd like to get involved with Restart, and have a look at the Department for Work and Pensions' policy paper for more information.
What is SKILL UP?
SKILL UP is a flexible skills program for people aged 18 and over in Northern Ireland. It provides free, accredited courses in a multitude of areas, allowing people to re-train, learn new skills or brush up on old skills
There are up to 7000 free places available up to the end of June 2023, with the expectation that more will be made available after this date.
Most courses will be delivered at least partially online, with opportunities available at all education levels. The range of courses on offer is very wide and is tailored to identify gaps in the market identified by industry. This means that the skills gained on these courses will equip participants to find work in sectors where there are jobs available. Some examples of courses on offer are:
- digital skills
- green technologies
- healthcare and life sciences
- advanced manufacturing
- leadership and management
Can I sign up?
The SKILL UP program has options for people of all ages and abilities! You must be at least 18 years old and have the right to live and work in Northern Ireland. Entry requirements may vary by course, but they offer courses at a wide variety of levels and in many fields, so there is sure to be a course for you.
How do I sign up?
See Northern Ireland Direct for a list of courses and providers, and how to apply.
Looking for skills programs in Scotland or England?
The Education Maintenance Allowance
What is the Education Maintenance Allowance?
Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is a means tested allowance of £30 per week, which is available to 16–19 year olds enrolled in courses of further education up to and including Level 3. Eligibility based on household income and number of hours in education varies by region. See relevant country for details of criteria and how to apply:
In Scotland, the EMA is available to students aged 16 to 19 who are enrolled in school, college, or home education and are studying non-advanced courses. There are different residency criteria for students of different immigration statuses. The EMA is only available for households earning £24,421 or less with one dependent child, or £26,884 for households with more than one dependent child. See the Scottish EMA website or contact your local council’s EMA team for more details.
For the academic year 2022-2023, the EMA is available to 16-19 year olds studying
- A levels
- NVQ/SVQ level 1, 2 or 3
- Pre U
- BTEC National Diploma, National Certificate and First Diploma
- SCE higher grade or similar
For households with one dependent child, the household income must be £20,500 or less to qualify for EMA, and £22,500 for households with more than one child. The claimant must be studying at least 15 hours a week at college or school. You must meet the residency requirements, unless you have been granted leave to enter or remain under the Ukraine scheme. Claiming EMA does not effect other benefits. Two bonus payments of £100 are also available to students who achieve goals set out by their educational institution. For more information and how to apply, see NI direct.
For 2022, students in Wales must be between 16 and 18 to qualify for EMA, depending on residency status. You must be studying at a participating school or college, and studying any courses up to and including Level 3, for example GSCEs, AS or A Levels, BTEC, GNVQ, NVQ, Basic Skills Courses, and Independent Living Skills courses. If you are in school you must be studying full time, or at least 12 guided hours per week for 10 weeks at college. In houses with one dependent child the maximum income to claim is £20,817, or £23,077 for houses with more than one child. See Student Finance Wales for a Further Education calculator and more information.
The Welsh Government Learning Grant
What is the Welsh Government Learning Grant?
This is a grant of up to £1,500 for students in Wales aged 19 and over who are studying any Further Education course. It is an income-assessed grant, aimed at assisting with the costs of education, such as transport and costs of material.
Can I get it?
This is only available to students whose household income is £18,370 or less who meet the nationality and residency criteria. You must be studying an eligible course, as courses at Level 4 and above are not eligible. Different levels of funding are available for part time and full time students, and depending on household income.
How do I get it?
The Financial Contingency Fund
What is the Financial Contingency Fund?
The Financial Contingency Fund (FCF) can help with the costs associated with education if you are facing financial hardship. The amount granted will be determined upon successful application. Money from the FCF can go towards childcare, transport, meals, course equipment and clothing, accommodation, other education related costs.
Can I get it?
This fund is available students aged 16+ who are enrolled in any full or part time Further Education course equally to at least 275 hours of guided education per academic year.
As a means tested grant, to be eligible for the FCF your household income must be:
- £16,380 or below in households with no children
- £20,818 or below in households with one child
- £23,077 or below in households with two or more children.
How do I get it?
The FCF must be applied to annually. FCF forms become available in August and September for the coming academic year. Contact your educational institution for the FCF application form, or see Adult Learning Wales for more information. The form can also be downloaded from Student Finance Wales.
Individual Training Accounts
What is an Individual Training Account?
Skills Development Scotland’s Individual Training Account programme, or ITA, is a scheme whereby learners can receive up to £200 towards the cost of a training course. Your ITA money can be used for fees or any other costs of completing a training course. The courses included in the ITA scheme are tailored to fill gaps in the job market, meaning that the skills you will learn with the subsidy are great for improving your employability.
Can I get ITA funding?
If all of the following statements apply to you, you could be eligible for an ITA grant:
- you are aged 16 or over
- you are a resident of Scotland
- you are unemployed and are looking to get back into work
- you are not in education or any other Skills Development Scotland funded programmes.
You can also apply if you are in employment and earning £22,000 or less per year.
How do I get an ITA grant?
The first step in getting an ITA grant is finding an ITA course using My World of Work’s search tool. You should then apply for ITA funding through the relevant page to the course of your choice, before enrolling on the course within 4 weeks of receiving confirmation of your funding. You will need to prove your income to book a place on the course. See the My World of Work website for further guidance.