Tens of thousands of adults on low wages are set to benefit from a new rule which will see their training fully funded from next year, FE Week understands.

Up until now, adults have had to have been on benefits to receive full funding for education courses.

But a radical adult education budget rule-change is expected to come into play in 2018/19 which will open the door to a huge number of other adults on low wages.

It will apply to those who earn less than the Social Mobility Commission’s low-pay threshold.

“This code is used to identify individuals who earn less than the Social Mobility Commission’s low-pay threshold of £15,736.50 annual gross salary, and providers use their discretion to fully fund using their adult education budget allocation,” says an Individualised Learner Record rule change.

This will apply from August 2018 to July 2019.

An ESFA update appeared to confirm the change this afternoon.

“This week we will publish version one of the adult education budget funding rules 2018 to 2019,” it said. “The main change from the draft version, published March 2018, will be to AEB learners on low wages. The rules apply to all providers of education and training who receive AEB funding through the ESFA.”

The news will be huge for learners on English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) courses, who typically take low-paid jobs while they upskill themselves.

Under current rules, learners can be fully funded if they “receive jobseeker’s allowance, including those receiving national insurance credits only, receive employment and support allowance and are in the work-related activity group”.

They can also be fully funded if they receive universal credit or other state benefits, and earn “either less than 16 times the appropriate age-related rate of the national minimum wage / national living wage a week, or £338 a month (individual claims) or £541 a month (household claims)”.

The cash to fund the free courses is likely to not be new money, but will come from huge underpsends of the AEB.

As revealed by FE Week last month, hundreds of colleges and training providers between them failed to deliver £73 million of allocated funding last year.