More local discretion over skills funding promised

10th August 2011

Skills Minister John Hayes announced that further education providers will be granted some local discretion to provide fully subsidised courses for people on a wider range of benefits – provided the training is designed to help those adults enter employment.

This means adapting rules that come into force for the 2011/12 academic year whereby only claimants on so-called ‘active benefits’ (Jobseekers’ Allowance or work-related Employment and Support Allowance) would be eligible for fully subsidised provision.

Minister Hayes said:

“It is good news for people who are currently reliant on benefits but want to get into work, and good news for employers looking for a local supply of the right skills to help their businesses to grow.”

Although the precise details have not been published by the Skills Funding Agency, it is likely that funding to support local discretion to provide full fee remission to a wider group of adults, will be made available from within existing budgets.

Mark Ravenhall, NIACE Director of Policy and Impact said:

“As with all announcements about the current complex funding system in England, the devil will be in the detail. Providers have received their funding allocations for the 2011/12 academic year and it looks like they will have to prioritise funding within this current envelope.”

“However, this announcement is to be warmly welcomed as it should help providers respond to demand from adults who were likely to be disadvantaged under the current rules. This is often people who need support in learning English or gaining the skills for independent living so they are less dependent on the State. Decisions about appropriate support for such groups are best made at a local level by colleges and other partners, particularly local authorities.”

A consultation on the further reform of the further education system is expected in the next few weeks. It follows the interim report of the independent Commission on Colleges in their Communities published in July which recommended a number of ways of delivering greater local flexibility on funding by government. In return colleges would take greater responsibility for ensuring co-investment from individuals and employers, as well as close working with the communities they serve.