Majority of eligible providers chose not to apply for ESFA Covid-19 supplier relief

Only around a quarter of eligible training providers applied for the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s Covid-19 supplier relief scheme, FE Week analysis suggests.

The agency told this newspaper today that they have received 162 applications for the extra financial support, which opened on 24 April and closed on 3 May.

The figure is 22 per cent of the 734 providers with a procured adult education budget allocation and/or non-levy apprenticeship contract with the government – nearly all of which would have been entitled to bid for the scheme.

It comes as the ESFA delays releasing the outcomes of provider applications.

The agency had expected to notify providers of the outcome of their applications by yesterday, 12 May, but this “unfortunately has not been possible in all cases”, they said in an update today.

FE Week understands that some providers have already heard back, and all applicants should now receive their outcome by the end of this week.

“We are sorry for the delay and inconvenience, but assure you that it will not affect the date that payments will be made,” the ESFA added.

The agency has come in for a lot of criticism over its handling of the relief scheme.

They took more than a month to launch the support after Cabinet Office gave contracting authorities the green light to pay their suppliers in advance of delivery on 20 March, and when it was released, it excluded the majority of apprenticeship providers.

All apprenticeships recorded on the government’s digital system, mostly with levy-paying employers, have been made ineligible as the ESFA believes the contractual relationship is between the employer and the provider, rather than the government.

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers is challenging this legally. James Goudie QC, a senior silk at 11KBW, as well as a deputy High Court judge and a master of the bench of the Inner Temple, has been instructed by the law firm VWV to help present the case in a letter on behalf of the membership organisation.

The letter was sent at the end of April and the government is yet to respond.