A recruitment agency that also delivers apprenticeships has been slammed by a government watchdog for failing to verify their claim that apprentices have jobs.
Ofsted today branded East London-based Care Int Ltd as ‘inadequate’ due to “poor quality training” and severe concerns about the employment of apprentices who leaders claim funding for.
Inspectors found that not a single apprentice has completed their programme or achieved their qualification since the firm started delivering apprenticeships in March 2020.
Care Int Ltd, which was set up in 2011 as a recruitment agency for the health and social care sector, “failed to provide inspectors with the details of employment and employers for most currently funded apprentices” meaning that they could not “verify their claim that all apprentices were in jobs”, according to the report.
Ofsted reiterated concerns made during an early monitoring visit to the provider last year that most apprentices are on zero-hour contracts and do not work enough hours for apprenticeships.
The report said: “Leaders failed to provide inspectors with information that they requested and, therefore, could not demonstrate that apprentices for whom they were receiving funding were in employment.
“For example, they provided incomplete information about the learners for whom they currently receive funding, and only gave employer details for the 12 apprentices they are still training. They failed to give inspectors adequate information about apprentices who they are no longer training and who are still on the individualised learner record.”
Care Int Ltd has enrolled 80 apprentices over the past three and a half years on a range of apprenticeship standards including the level 3 senior healthcare support worker, level 3 teaching assistant, level 3 team leader or supervisor, level 5 assistant practitioner and level 5 learning and skills teacher standards.
Sujan Barua, Care Int Ltd’s director, told FE Week he has a “quality improvement plan in place” to resolve Ofsted’s concerns, but refused to respond directly to any of the watchdog’s allegations.
The Education and Skills Funding Agency typically terminates the contracts of private providers that are judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted, and has the power to clawback funding if ineligible claims have been made. The ESFA declined to comment on this case.
Care Int Ltd is still currently listed as an active provider on the government’s apprenticeship provider and assessment register. Barua refused to say whether the ESFA had contacted his provider following Ofsted’s report.
Ofsted heaped further uncertainty on the accuracy of the provider’s apprenticeship numbers, as the provider “stopped teaching most apprentices in September 2022, although they remained on the individualised learner record”.
The provider also failed to provide individualised training plans to apprentices and did not plan or record their apprentices’ off-the-job and on-the-job training. That means apprentices “do not receive sufficient high-quality training”.
The lack of support leaves apprentices “overwhelmed” and having to complete their studies in their own time, Ofsted said.
Inspectors said completion dates had been “delayed significantly […] for too many apprentices”.
Staff at the provider were also accused of failing to correct apprentices’ work, and failing to give inspectors “any examples of feedback that had been given to apprentices prior to their final assignment submission”.
They were also accused of not keeping records of absences meaning that apprentices who miss sessions are “over-reliant” on other apprentices to catch up on work they missed.
Ofsted did point to a “suitable curriculum” on the level 3 diploma qualification for the senior healthcare support worker apprenticeship, while it also said staff are “suitably qualified” and have experience in the care sector.
Safeguarding arrangements at the provider are “effective”, Ofsted said.