AELP drops Covid-19 supplier relief legal challenge

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers has decided to not pursue legal action against the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s Covid-19 supplier relief scheme.

Lawyers have advised that the only challenge they could now take would be to seek a judicial review, which the board of the membership organisation believes would come “at a significant cost”.

A statement released today added that while a positive result from a judicial review would be to review the supplier relief process, there would still be “no guarantee of substantial support from the Department for Education for suppliers even after that” and this would also “take time, to a point where it might be too late for many AELP members”.

A legal letter was sent from law firm Veale Wasbrough Vizards LLP on behalf of the AELP on 27 April after the ESFA excluded the majority of apprenticeship providers – those funded through the government’s digital system – from their supplier relief scheme.

It argued that the ESFA’s claim that apprenticeships funded through the digital system, mainly with levy-paying employers, are a contract with the employer and provider was “an abuse of power” and makes their supplier relief scheme “unlawful”.

The Government Legal Department (GLD) responded on 14 May and concluded that it is “not accepted that the relief scheme is unlawful on any of the grounds alleged by the AELP (or on any other grounds)”.

AELP said their lawyers have indicated that the GLD’s response does not make a case for defending the DfE’s position on the application of PPN 02/20, and that the AELP’s board feels “strongly” the letter is simply one of “rebuttal and it avoids addressing the key issues such as the legal agreement between the Education and Skills Funding Agency and a provider for levy-funded apprenticeships constituting a contract”.

The Labour Party’s shadow education team wrote to education secretary Gavin Williamson last week and accused the government of failing to make a “serious attempt” to answer AELP’s claim.

They also called for officials to abandon their “very flimsy case” for the majority of apprenticeships from the supplier relief scheme.

Click below to read the letters from the relevant parties in full

Veale Wasbrough Vizards LLP challenge

Government Legal Department response

Labour letter to Gavin Williamson