The Learning and Skills Council sets out the eligibility criteria for fee remission in the funding guidance for further education, updated each year.
Currently all English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision is fully funded, with free tuition for all learners. From August 2007/08 it is proposed that in order to receive fee remission an ESOL learner must fall into standard fee remission categories, for example, that they are in receipt of an income based benefit such as housing benefit.
The fee remission categories are set out in paragraph 127 of the Funding guidance for further education in 2006/07 and include:
unemployed people in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance;
those in receipt of income-based benefits, formerly known as means-tested benefits, the main income-based benefits are council tax benefit, housing benefit, income support and jobseeker's allowance (income-based);
those in receipt of working tax credit with a household income of less than £15,050;
those in receipt of pension credits-guarantee credit;
the unwaged dependants (as defined by Jobcentre Plus) of those listed above.
My hon. Friend the Minister for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning has considered the impact of the proposed changes to ESOL funding following the race equality impact assessment (REIA) and he is minded to consider a range of new measures to reprioritise funding towards the most vulnerable. These are:
Reinstating eligibility for those asylum seekers who are in the UK legally and whose claims are not resolved within six months;
Reinstating eligibility for those asylum seekers who are unable to return or be returned to their country of origin for circumstances beyond their control and who are eligible for section 4 support;
Prioritising funding at local level through the Learning and Skills Council's Learner Hardship Support Fund towards support for spouses and individuals who may not have access to their household benefit documentation or their own funds; and
Agreeing with the Learning and Skills Council an approach to evidencing low pay for fee remission purposes which enables flexible use of a raft of evidence, including wider benefits and other evidence.
My hon. Friend the Minister for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning has asked officials to work with the Learning and Skills Council and other partners to finalise the detail urgently.