It’s time to collect on your decision to sign up to the Enhanced Learning Credits (ELC) scheme.
Just as many modern organisations encourage their employees to have an appetite for lifelong learning through gaining training certificates and extra qualifications such as an MBA, for example, so the MoD has the Enhanced Learning Credit (ELC) scheme. The scheme is designed to complement the Standard Learning Credit (SLC) scheme by providing Personnel with a single payment (per year, for a maximum of three separate financial years) towards the cost of higher-level learning.
The scheme provides credits that can be used to pay for the reasonable expense of learning towards a nationally recognised qualification at Level 3 (A level and equivalent) as well as those defined by the National Qualifications Framework (NQF)/Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) (England and Wales), a Level 6 or those on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). (If you are studying overseas the credits can be used towards an approved international equivalent higher level qualification.)
You may not even remember signing the application form but ELCs could be your ticket to upgrading qualifications or retraining as something completely new. Education is expensive and whilst it’s never a waste of money, it’s great to be given the opportunity to do it with support towards fees, which can be substantial.
There is plenty of information on the ELCAS website, but just like anything else these days – tax, buying a house, divorce law; it’s not as easy as you might think to get through it and some of the jargon has teeth – we’ve tamed it for you and present our 10 best takeaways to get you started.
Signing Up To ELCs
Cast your mind back to when you enlisted. You might just remember that during your Phase 1 (initial training) you were briefed about the ELC scheme and its benefits. Soon afterwards you’ll have been given an application form that you were obliged to complete and sign – either accepting the invitation to join the scheme (or to opt out). Training and education staff are basically encouraged to help you to say ‘yes’ since they’ve got until one month after the 12 month deadline to get your form to the CSP for registration.
In fact, you even get a second shot at it. There’s another joining window of six months beginning after you’ve passed eight years of Service (measured from enlistment date) however, Personnel joining at this point are unable to make an ELC claim until they have met the eligible service requirement taken from when they joined ELC rather than the date they enlisted.
In all cases, having joined ELC a Serviceperson must complete a minimum length of Service in the Armed Forces before becoming eligible to make a claim at the lower tier, and a further period of Service before becoming eligible to make a claim at the upper tier.
ELC funding exists in two distinct tiers depending on length of Service. The lower funding tier is achieved after four years eligible Service and is worth £1,000 per year. The upper tier is achieved after eight years and is worth £2,000 per year.
Eligible Servicepeople can make ELC claims in up to three separate financial years. These might even be a mixture of lower and upper tier claims. ELC funds may be channelled into one learning goal (such as successive years’ study towards a particular qualification) or perhaps different purposes/courses in each of the three years.
You Have 10 Years To Claim
Eligible Servicepeople can make ELC claims whilst still Serving or they might wait until their resettlement, when they’ll have up to 10 years to make a claim.
ELC Is Not An Entitlement
Provided they fulfil all the relevant criteria of the Scheme, Personnel may be eligible to claim ELC support. As ELCs are a large-scale and attractive award, the Scheme is subject to strict entry criteria.
ELC fits in nicely with the Government’s “Life Long Learning” initiative. The MoD supports this by encouraging Armed Forces personnel to enhance their educational, academic, professional or vocational achievements by pursuing higher level learning and who face substantial financial expenditure in doing so. To some extent it’s about helping Service-leavers compete in a challenging marketplace when they leave the Forces. It encourages employers to see Service-leavers as not only people with excellent experience and attributes but up-to-date and fit-for-purpose qualifications.
Wide Variety Of Subjects/Courses
You could study towards any number of courses with support from ELCs. Assuming courses are accredited by the Enhanced Learning Credit Administration Services Ltd (ELCAS), the only limit is your imagination. Your learning or training might involve anything from training for offshore work to learning about stocks and shares for a career in finance to driving qualifications or massage therapy – whilst, of course, there are more tradition options available such as foreign languages or accountancy and so on.
If you’ve only got as far as thinking about retraining, you might consider looking at college or university prospectus’s in either libraries or online or else sitting down with a career guide and having a chat about your experiences and ambitions.
Personnel who have completed both Phase 1 and Phase 2 training who are medically discharged from Service before achieving the required four years eligible service to qualify for ELC, may be eligible to claim ELC at the lower tier rate if they are discharged on or after 1 Nov 2010. In such cases, the individual must be a member of the ELC scheme and the injury/illness must be caused or significantly worsened, wholly or predominantly, by Service, as defined by the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.
For eligible higher level qualification courses it is be permissible for Service-leavers going through the resettlement process to use their Individual Resettlement Training Cost (IRTC) grant, in addition to their ELC, to fund their pursuing nationally recognised higher level qualification at NQF Level 3 or above. (In addition to the final outcome of the course being at NQF Level 3 or above, at least 75% of the study must be of that level.)
The qualification must be delivered by an approved ELC learning provider who has applied for that course to be included in his portfolio. It will be permitted, under these circumstances only, for Service-leavers to use their IRTC grant to offset, or pay in full, the 20% personal contribution required when undertaking learning using ELC.
Service-leavers should note that all other policy regarding the use of ELC should still be adhered to. (It is not permissible to use the ELC alongside the IRTC for courses or training supplied by non-approved ELCAS providers.) In other words, some training or education will cost more than the ELCs cover and so this rule provides Service-leavers with flexibility and choice when financing their preferred learning choices.
How The Credits Might Be Spent
Claims for both ELC and IRTC to pay towards a single resettlement learning activity should continue to be submitted in accordance with the scheme regulations noting that firstly, the 20% minimum personal contribution will be paid on receipt of the Claims Authorisation Note (CAN) from ELCAS. (The MoD will be invoiced separately by the learning provider to pay the difference.) The ELC claimant may then submit a retrospective IRTC claim on completion of the course and claim back the difference up to the maximum of £534 or, alternatively, the Service-leaver may continue to routinely apply for pre-payment of IRTC using the procedure laid down in the SPVA Business Process Guide.
Secondly, any unspent IRTC may be directed towards another training activity.
(It is important to note that whilst IRTC may be used to finance multiple courses or training; the ELCs can not. It remains the Service-leaver’s responsibility, using the advice and guidance offered from Education and Resettlement Advisers, to determine how best to optimise the funding support available during resettlement.
Before Making A Claim
Prior to embarking on any activity covered by the terms of the ELC Scheme, Service personnel must carefully consider the relevance of the course or qualification as it relates to personal development goals and choice of funding.
Furthermore as they are likely to be new to study, Service-leavers should make sure that they are fully prepared to cope with a commitment to study and that the study method (full time, distance learning etc) suits them since a disruption to their learning might risk wasting their opportunity to use ELCs to their greatest efficacy.
It is also worth keeping in mind the time required to process a claim form with the possibility of enquiries being necessary from the point of view of education staff that need to assess the level of proposed qualification. As well as this, if a provider is not on the approved list, the time taken to complete the application process and be considered for ‘approved’ status can run to several months.
Study For Service-leavers Meriting ELC Support
- Study towards first degrees (including foundation degrees).
- Study towards postgraduate qualifications, including teacher training.
- Other academic study, such as AS/A level study, higher education institute access courses, or foreign language study.
- Pursuit of professional self-development in addition to that provided through Service professional training.
- Accreditation of prior learning assessment fees, including accreditation of Service professional skills, leading to partial or complete qualifications providing there is evidence that the individual has produced new, original work.
- Examination fees in respect of types of courses listed here, whether preceded by course fees or not.
Initial registration fees and accreditation fees for professional bodies and institutes expressly to gain qualifications (i.e. certificates, diplomas or equivalent schemes of work rather than categories of membership).
Refresher training provided that training results in the re-qualification/re-award of a qualification of Level 3 or above.
Courses offered by publically funded providers such as colleges of further education and universities are able to offer their full range of publically funded courses, subject to their ‘level’. Private providers must request and have approval for each of their courses.
NB: Look out for advertisers in Civvy Street that specifically mention their ELCAS accreditation.