Skills Funding Agency abolishes relationship managers

Providers with Skills Funding Agency contracts will no longer have a dedicated relationship manager, following staffing cuts at the agency.

In a letter sent by agency deputy director Nick Wilson to providers yesterday, the agency said from July the new central delivery service (CDS) would be the first point of contact for queries about contracts, payments and performance management.

The agency has shed 600 of 1,900 staff since October 2010 and aims to reduce staffing level by another 30 per cent, to 925, cuts which were branded “ideological” and “detrimental” to apprenticeships in an early day motion tabled in parliament last month.

Mr Wilson said that as of today, the agency would “normally only allocate a named contact for colleges and providers which are subject to the agency’s formal intervention processes, and those which are at risk”.

He added that the CDS would be “leading on operational matters to do with contracts, payments and performance management, and providing the single entry point into the agency for queries from colleges and providers… They will also provide access to technical data systems applications help and support.”

He also said the agency’s new online Hub system would also be able to answer queries.

At local level the agency will also be launching new employer and delivery service teams, although they would not offer tailored advice.

Mr Wilson said: “Our new employer and delivery services area teams will come into being, incorporating the previous relationship teams and the National Apprenticeship Service teams at the local level, but with a different role.

“They will lead our strategic relationships with Local Enterprise Partnerships, key employers and stakeholders in the local area — with a focus on apprenticeships and traineeships.

“They will also work with colleges and providers where formal intervention is necessary or at risk, but they will not routinely manage relationships with all colleges and providers.”

Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “The important thing about relationship management is that providers are clear about the priorities for delivery, the contract management rules are transparent and the management systems are effective.

“With this clarity, providers should be able to work with more centralised provider support although it will be important for all providers to have a named contact that can resolve specific issues by exception.”