**Update** Educational Access Payments
Over the past several months, the Country Trust has been liaising with the Rural Payments Agency and Defra about the availability and awareness of Educational Access Payments (ED1).
We've been listening to farmer hosts who report that the process to make or add an ED1 claim, particularly to an existing agreement, is difficult and unclear. We’re also aware that many farmers do not know that Educational Payments exist, and if they do, are unsure of what support is available to them to help them open the farm gate for visits.
About Countryside Stewardship
Countryside Stewardship (CS) provides financial incentives for farmers, woodland owners, foresters and land managers to look after and improve the environment. One element of the scheme is encouraging educational access.
Educational Access Payments (ED1) are available via the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to farmers and landowners who offer educational farm visits as part of Mid-Tier and Higher-Tier Countryside Stewardship (CS) and the Higher-Level strand of Environmental Stewardship (HLS).
In January 2022 Defra increased Countryside Stewardship rates and broadened the scheme to make it easier to apply and ED1 (educational access) payments increased from £109 to £309 per visit. However, no such increase has been made to educational access payments as part of the older HLS Environmental Stewardship Scheme (ES). We have taken this up with Defra and RPA but do not anticipate an increase at this time.
HLS was due to be phased out this year (2022) but some farmers may be eligible to extend their agreements for 5 years from January 2023. Agreement holders must continue to meet the criteria of their original claim. Within the 5-year extension, agreement holders can leave their agreement at an agreed point if they are accepted onto another environmental scheme. Educational Access payments are unlikely to increase from £109 for anyone who chooses to extend their HLS scheme.
In 2023, an early version of Local Nature Recovery (part of ELMs scheme (see below)) was due to be made available to a limited number of people and the scheme was due to roll out across England by the end of 2024. It is likely that the Local Nature Recovery scheme will be based on Countryside Stewardship.
ED1 Key Points
> ED1 payments are available to Higher Tier and Mid- Tier Countryside Stewardship claimants BUT not as a standalone item. It can only be applied for with other Mid -Tier (including Wildlife Offers) and Higher Tier options, an agreement cannot be for ED1 only.
> ED1 is NOT available as part of a Mid-Tier Wildlife Offer.
The Wildlife Offers are:
> £309 per visit – up to 25 visits per year
> Tour of farm / activities must last at least 2 hours
> Tour of farm / activities must involve farm staff
> Visits should help make links between farming, conservation and food production using the land as a classroom
> Hosts must complete a Farm visit evaluation form for each visit claimed.
> It is possible to deliver more visits or to deliver visits to parties that would otherwise not be eligible and to charge these visitors if you wish. You cannot claim these visits through Countryside Stewardship.
> Farmers do not have to deliver the number of visits they apply for, we suggest they apply for the maximum amount.
To achieve the aims and deliver the environmental benefits, do not carry out any of the following activities:
> The children cannot be older than 18. There is no age limit on care farming
> Charge for visits
> Receive any other direct income relating to the educational visit
> Youth clubs, toddler groups and extra-curricular events are not eligible visitors
> Respite care and those set to work on tasks are not eligible visitors
> As there is no maximum party size, only one group on the holding at a time is eligible to be claimed
> You cannot claim for more than 25 visiting groups in any agreement year.
> On your annual claim you will be asked to declare that you have not carried out any prohibited activities.
How the Country Trust supports farmers
> We have more than 40 years’ experience in organising farm visits
> We undertake all the liaison with schools, including pre-visits, timetables and curriculum links
> We work with you to ensure the visits go smoothly and that you feel confident welcoming a class of children to your farm.
> We will share our generic risk assessment to help you prepare your own for your farm or estate.
Further funding and guidance
Money for CEVAS or similar training is currently also available to Higher Tier applicants, the plan is to extend this to Mid-Tier claimants too AC2: Countryside educational access visits accreditation - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Grants for capital items associated with educational access have also been available for past schemes and continue to be available in CS (Countryside Stewardship) for example, hand washing facilities, toilets, and classrooms as well as educational materials and other projects. Defra is looking into the possibility of bringing these payments into Mid-Tier.
Guidance for the CS options is available from gov.uk
Funding is also available for educational access as part of the new Farming in Protected Landscapes programme. The Farming in Protected Landscapes programme is open to all farmers and land managers within an AONB or National Park in England, or the Broads. Other organisations and individuals can apply when collaborating with a farmer or land manager, or in support of a farmer or group of farmers. Country Trust is applying in partnership with several farms in protected landscapes.