Adult education and apprenticeship funded training providers “may be eligible for support” in line with the Cabinet Office’s supplier relief rules that allow payment in advance of delivery, the Department for Education said tonight.

In new guidance, the DfE wrote: “Where a provider receives adult education budget (AEB), or apprenticeship funding, as part of a direct contract for services with ESFA, and is at risk financially, they may be eligible for support (subject to meeting additional criteria) as part of DfE’s response to the Cabinet Office’s Procurement Policy Note 02/20.

“Support provided through that mechanism would count as public funding for the purposes of conditions covering the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.”

It comes after weeks of the DfE failing to explain why they would not comply with Cabinet Office rules that permits publicly funded bodies to pay their suppliers in advance of delivery until the end of June owing to the coronavirus lockdown.

Apprenticeships and skills Minster Gillian Keegan said tonight that she is “aware of the huge challenge faced by the FE sector in continuing to deliver training at this time” and she is “really pleased to confirm that we will provide additional targeted financial support for FE providers that meet the criteria”.

“This support will help make sure we can continue to deliver the best education and training possible and rebuild our economy after the COVID-19 outbreak,” she added.

“We will set out further detail next week about how our new ‘provider relief scheme’ will work.”

Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Mark Dawe said: “On the face of it, this looks encouraging, but clarity is still required and hopefully we will get it early next week.”

The DfE’s guidance states that “further guidance on the operation of any supplier relief scheme for providers funded under a contract for services with ESFA will be published when available”.

Providers “should email to register their interest in the scheme”.

FE Week understands further guidance is due early next week.