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Funding for young people aged 16 to 25 with SEN or disabilities

Please note: this information is currently under review

16 to 18 year olds

All children are expected to attend a school from ages 5 to 16. From the age of 16 until the age of 18, young people must remain in full-time education or training, work-based learning, or part-time learning plus 20 or more hours per week of volunteering or work.

Please see Options for Young People aged 14 to 25 for more details about preparing for adulthood choices including study options and other key decisions.

Up to age 18, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) funds full time study for all students and, in maintained settings and non-maintained special schools, the ESFA funds additional SEN Support. The ESFA will fund qualifications listed on the DfE Section 96 list of qualifications and Register of Regulated Qualifications.

Additional funding above SEN Support is accessed via an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and coordinated by Merton’s SEN Team.

In a small number of cases, the Local Authority will commission an independent school/college or an alternative education placement because your special educational needs mean that you are not able to attend ESFA-funded placements. In these cases, the Local Authority will fund this via an EHCP.

Note: It is a condition of funding that you continue to study English and Maths alongside your full time course if you have not yet achieved NQF Level 2 in these subjects. Those will profound or complex learning needs are exempt from requiring formal qualifications but are expected to have numeracy and literacy elements with their learning programme.

Higher Education

Pupils who are studying at or above level 4 as defined by the Regulated Qualifications Framework, no longer receive ESFA funding or high needs funding (element 3) through an Education, Health and Care Plan. Student Finance provides loans for paying for study at this level. For additional information about learning support in higher education, see the guidance for SEN Support in Higher Education.

Post 19 Learners without an EHCP

At 19, you become an adult learner, your funding will come from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). The ESFA pays for course fees for regulated qualifications and additional learning support but you need to check before enrolling. You may be required to contribute if you are repeating a course (although not for English and Maths).

For pupils who require learning support costing more than £19,000 per annum due to a visual / hearing impairment or a physical /medical disability, your college or provider may apply for Exceptional Learning Support from the SFA (e.g. to cover specialist equipment, nursing or BSL support). This is applicable if you have a disability but do not also have a special educational need and therefore would not be eligible for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Post 18 Learners with an EHCP

For students with an EHCP, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) continues to pay for your course fees and SEN Support up to and including the age of 25, although it is expected that most young people will choose to leave full time education or training before age 25 and move into adult life.

Conditions of ESFA funding beyond 18 include:

  • English and Maths study alongside other learning if you have not already achieved Level 2 (GCSE grades A* - C or 4 to 9, or functional skills level 2)
  • Evidence of progress: this means moving up a level after each course and not repeating the same course twice at the same level. However, a different subject/pathway at the same level is sometimes acceptable if there is a clear need or benefit to be gained

Learning support provision can be personalised to help you to meet your EHCP outcomes, known as personalised pathways. As part of this personalisation, some types of provision or service are eligible for a Personal Budget (via a direct payment), if you request this.


Traineeships education/training are funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency  including additional learning support needs. Students with an EHCP will retain their plan whilst on the placement.

Job coaches and other support in the workplace can be funded by Access to Work. Providers should be willing to make the application with you or on your behalf. If you are on benefits, the Job Centre may be able to offer you additional financial support. Please see Traineeship Guidance for Young People from the DfE for more details.


Apprenticeship education/training is funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency(ESFA)  including additional learning support needs.

If you have an EHCP, the ESFA will fund your training including additional learning support provision from age 16 to 25. You will retain your EHCP during an apprenticeship.

Job coaches and additional support in the workplace can be funded by Access to Work. Providers should be willing to make the application with you or on your behalf.

Please see Apprenticeship Guidance for Young People from the DfE for more details.


Supported Internships

Supported Internships are for young people with an EHCP. Sometimes you need to be studying at or below a certain level so please check the entry requirements for each specific programme. Normally you have to be over the age of 18 to access Supported Internships.

Sometimes the learning part of the programme is delivered by an Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) registered provider, such as a Further Education College, in which case it will be funded by the ESFA. Otherwise, you will need to ask the Local Authority to provide funding via your EHCP.

Job coaches and additional support in the workplace can be funded by Access to Work. The provider should be willing to help you to claim or claim on your behalf.

For more detailed guidance on funding see Advice from the DfE on Supported Internships.

Grants and Bursaries

The 16 to 19 Bursary Fund 
You can apply to receive up to £1,200 to cover learning costs (such as travel or equipment) if you are a care leaver, disabled student on Income Support, or you receive Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) / Personal Independence Payment (PIP). You can apply through your school, college or training provider. The college or provider may also offer their own discretionary bursaries.

Discretionary Learner Support
If you are aged 19 or over, you can apply to receive support for learning costs such as travel, equipment or childcare. You apply through your college or learning provider. 

Apart from those mentioned above, there are other sources of additional funding available to help disadvantaged students to access education and training.

Job Centre Plus will advise those students claiming benefits.

Other sources of funding and grants can be found on the Government’s website Financial Support for Students, or from Disability Rights UK or Disability-Grants.



By law, providers and employers must make reasonable adjustments so that any young person with a disability can access their courses or placements. These should be provided whether or not the young person has an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP). You can see examples of reasonable adjustments you can expect from post 16 education providers in the Disability Rights UK Factsheet F11 

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